Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science Simon Harris TD has today (12 January) opened the Bright Futures in Technology event at the 2022 BT Young Scientist & Technology Exhibition.
Bright Futures in Technology, run by Connecting Women in Technology (CWIT), brings together figures from the world of technology to share their experience with second and third level students, teachers, lecturers, parents and the public.
Opening the virtual event this evening, Minister Harris said:
“I am delighted to launch today’s event, spotlighting important stories from such an important sector in meeting the needs of our evolving economy and contributing to an inclusive society. Unfortunately, our research shows the group that remains the most underrepresented in STEM is girls from socio-economically disadvantaged backgrounds.
“But exclusion is not just an issue for women; we must also remember that there are many under-represented groups when it comes to careers in STEM – those from socio-economically disadvantaged backgrounds, people of colour, those with disabilities, migrants, and the LGBTQ+ community are all under-represented.”
The Minister added:
“We need to work together to open the doors to all groups and insist that change happens. We need to ensure that all members of our society can contribute ideas - inclusive thinking means that we are far more likely to find good solutions to the challenges we face now and indeed the challenges we will need to address in the future.”
Existing programmes providing upskilling and reskilling opportunities in STEM careers include Springboard+ and Human Capital Initiative (HCI) Pillar 1.
Minister Harris added:
“We still have a long way to go, though, with only around 15% of students enrolled in ICT programmes in Higher Education being female. We need lots of different role models to be visible and to show the next generation that they can also follow their dreams in science – that everyone is entitled to contribute ideas and provide solutions.”
Since early 2017 Springboard courses, funded by this department, have been made available to returners (formerly referred to as Homemakers). Courses remain free for unemployed, returners and those in employment participating at level 6 of the NFQ.
A combined total of 13,444 places in 408 courses are available in the 2021/22 academic year under Springboard+ 2021 and HCI Pillar 1. There is a broad range of courses, including courses in areas of new and emerging technologies such Cybersecurity, and Virtual Reality. Almost 64% of course places are in STEM-related areas.
The department has worked closely with agencies and colleagues in other departments to provide urgent upskilling and reskilling as a result of the pandemic.
Connecting Women in Technology
Connecting Women in Technology is a network of Irish based technology companies who all share a common goal to support the development of women in the technology industry.
Founded by Accenture, Dell and Microsoft in 2011, the network today spans over 20 leading multinational technology companies, including BT, who all collaborate to attract, promote and encourage women in STEM careers.
CWIT is managed on a day-to-day basis by a team of professionals from member companies who oversee all aspects of the network from strategy, integration, communications, memberships and our education and early careers pillars.
CWIT offers four programmes to bring more young people into STEM:
Tech Starter: For University students thinking about their degrees and future careers
Digital Futures: Delivering interactive presentations in schools to raise students’ awareness of the diverse nature of career opportunities in the technology sector and promote STEM careers throughout Ireland
Teen Turn: CWIT works with girls from DEIS schools and disadvantaged communities, to identify girls with academic promise, placing them in ‘Teen-Turnships’ in member companies so they can picture themselves in Tech careers
STEM Teacher Internships: Providing pre-service teachers with first-hand experience of working in technology sector, as teachers are one of the biggest influencers for young people making subject and career choices