“Engineers Week provides an excellent opportunity to give us young people an insight into the lives of engineers and how possible it is to follow in their footsteps to be an engineer of the future”. Shannon Knox, final year student, St Mary’s Secondary School, Derry
St. Mary’s College, Derry have been involved in Engineers Week for the last five years. During the week they encourage all their students to examine pathways and the excellent STEM career opportunities available to them.
Engineers Week is now an annual event in the St Mary’s College calendar that is looked forward to by both students and staff. Working together with the wider business community, School Employer Connections and the Engineers Ireland STEPS programme, they ensure that the week-long event captures the imagination and promotes STEM careers in a fun and engaging way to primary and secondary students and their parents in order to help manage STEM sector attractiveness.
Each year during Engineers Week, all 860 St Mary’s students join up with other primary and post primary schools in their local learning community and across the border in Co Donegal to engage in events. Over 1000 students take part in a wide range of activities including:
- Keynote Role Model Speakers – e.g. Sean McNicholl (Sphere Global); Philip O’Doherty (E&I Engineering) and strong female role model Petra Grashoff (Dupont).
Film Screenings – this year included a premier screening of the Stemettes produced -‘Eat. Sleep. STEM. Repeat’, and a trip to see the inspirational ‘Hidden Figures’.
- Career Fair ‘speed dating’ (School Employer Connections, W5 STEM Ambassadors).
- Workshops, competitions, industrial visits and work placements (Sentinus, STEM Aware, STEM Module).
St Mary’s have promoted their Engineers Week by participating in local radio interviews and inviting local press to attend events and take photographs. The school has also had an active presence on social media – posting on their school Facebook page, uploading YouTube clips and sending tweets from @stmarysderryTD @stmarysderry (involving other departments including Careers, Science, Maths, Geography, Art and ICT).
The effect of Engineers Week
As a result of their Engineers Week activity, numbers studying STEM subjects at senior cycle have increased. In 2011, only 8 students studied Technology and Design, however, in 2016, this increased to 32 students. One of the school’s goals is to encourage more female students to overcome gender stereotypes and pursue career goals in engineering.
Engineers Week has assisted the school in achieving their goal and many students have gone on to study engineering at third level as a result of taking part. Emer Smith attended their first Engineers Week as a final year student. Studying technology and design at A-level – she was inspired. Five years later, Emer has qualified with a First Class Honours in Renewable Energy Engineering.
Hayley McCready attended Engineers Week as a sixth former who at that time had no interest in pursuing a career in Engineering. Progressing to university, she found herself unhappy and unfilled by her course. Remembering information from Engineers Week in 2013, she transferred to an Engineering degree and never looked back – recently graduating with a First Class Honours in Mechanical Engineering Manufacture.
Saoirse Nash, now in the 2nd Year of her BEng Hons in Mechanical and Manufacturing Engineering, says that “Engineering is one of the STEM subjects which provides a thriving career for young enthusiastic women …Engineers Week helped me get to where I am today.”
Long term impact
The school’s Engineers Week focus has greatly increased student, teachers and parent’s awareness of STEM related subjects and job opportunities. Primary school students who join are already aware of the importance of STEM subjects and some of the many varied engineering careers. From first year, students are more informed, and are using their careers knowledge and input from local employers and partner organisations to make better informed subject choices with a greater awareness of the opportunities that STEM subjects offer.
“We are currently preparing students for jobs that don’t exist…using technologies that haven’t yet been invented…in order to solve problems we don’t even know are problem yet.”
It is estimated that 65% of today’s students will end up in jobs that haven’t been invented yet. This is a startling figure and central to the sustainability of St Mary’s STEM Engineers Week focus. Preparing students for the challenges of tomorrow is central to thinking at St. Mary’s College, Derry and Engineers Week is an important factor in influencing students.
Clare Doherty, Head of Technology, St Mary’s Secondary School, Derry, explains the importance of Engineers Week: “Schools should get involved in Engineers Week as it’s a chance for them to focus on careers where there are real opportunities for students. The projected growth of the sector and the shortage of students with the necessary skills set and qualifications mean that schools need to be making their students aware of the endless possibilities a career in engineering can offer. The main obstacle to students who are thinking about a career in engineering is that they are not completely sure of what it would entail and they are not aware of role models from their everyday experience. Engineering Week is also FUN for students and staff!” Start planning your school’s Engineers Week involvement and bring engineering to life in your school.