Exposing young minds to the possibilities of STEM careers

by | Jun 22, 2017

The changing nature of work is a concept we are all grappling with and is dearly in need of focus to ensure we preparing our economies for different jobs in the future. I tackled elements of this last year in this blog post talking about the future of the industry OptimalBI works within – Data Science – and what we can expect to see automated. This lovely video “Humans Need Not Apply” visually represents automation progression through recent years and speculates on how this will impact our workforce requirements in the not-too-distant-future.
Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) is the one area job growth is predicted to out strip any other industry, one UK report predicts Big Data and the Internet of Things (IoT) will add 217,000 new jobs to the UK economy by 2020 alone. The US Department of Commerce, Economics and Statistics also claim STEM workers earn 26% more on average than non-STEM – so the arguments are compelling.
To do our part OptimalBI is focusing on supporting initiatives designed to open young minds to the possibilities of STEM careers.

CodeClub Beehive

A brilliant event OptimalBI supported earlier this year was CodeClub Beehive. Held on the first day of TechWeek 2017 this catalyst event brought 35 primary school aged children to the Banquet Hall at the Beehive where they literally taught dozens of politicians, their aids and officials to code! both using unplugged techniques and in scratch based CodeClub Aotearoa projects.

Education Minister Nikki Kaye

The MP’s were incredibly engaged and we were lucky to have been hosted by Minister Dunne – who wore a CodeClub Aotearoa t-shirt complete with bowtie – with attendees like Minister Kaye, Minister Goldsmith, Greens Co-leader James Shaw, MP’s Gareth Hughes, Brett Hudson and more. The keynote speaker Amelia Lockhart teaches kids to code every weekend in a What Now segment “Amelia Cracks the Code” and told her incredible story of achievement at the tender age of 12.
The vibe was brilliant and was a great opportunity to expose policy and decision makers to how enthusiastically these students have embraced learning to code and to be frank – just how easy that can be. Today Stuff published a lovely writeup of the event.

ShadowTech Day

NZTech created this brilliant nationwide initiative in New Zealand, ShadowTech Day, designed to expose young women at high school to the possibilities of careers in the Digital Technology Industry by teaming them up with mentors and businesses. On today in Wellington we are hosting 3 young women here at OptimalBI as I write this blog which is awesome.

Pizza for lunch today.

In my experience speaking with girls in high schools their perception of Digital Technology careers is often summarised as “smelly boys” who play or code “games” – most are unaware of the many different roles from designers, to developers, business analysts and project managers (to name few). The other misnomer I often encounter is the assumption the path into a Digital Technology career is always via tertiary education. Queue my own story of studying accountancy, my first job installing the first EFTPOS machines in NZ in pubs around the top of the South Island – then replacing said EFTPOS machines every other week after beer was spilled on them, followed by my first “real” Technology role with Timberland in London. The rest is history and the key message is I have got to where I am after falling into IT vs studying for this life – so there are many paths.
Initiatives like ShadowTech Day are invaluable opportunities for young women to meet a vast range of women who have found their Digital Technology roles via many different paths. The World Economic Forum reminds us why it’s important to expose women to the possibilities in this article “8 things women should know about the future of work“:

Women could be in the firing line of the Fourth Industrial Revolution. Some of the largest job losses are expected in job families with the largest share of female employees, such as Office and Administrative roles.

Time for everyone to get involved

As the future of work is almost upon us there is an opportunity for everyone to get involved in supporting initiatives like these, help open young minds and attract a more diverse range of people into STEM careers. This will be key to enabling future economic prosperity through continued employment, at higher income levels for many groups.
If you need help identifying, finding or attaching to an initiative just let me know, there are so many great Charities and organisations out there whose impact is only limited by resources. Vic.

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