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Encouraging girls to study science and technology will help grow the economy

Encouraging girls to study science and technology will help grow the economy image

A new scheme to encourage girls to choose a career in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) gets underway this month.

Matrix, the Northern Ireland Science Industry Panel, has been working closely with WISE, a UK body committed to encouraging women and girls to take up careers in science and engineering, to develop a Northern Ireland regional hub aimed at showing girls that STEM careers are exciting, well-paid and fulfilling.

The hub will feature an interactive careers platform called “My Skills, My Life”, which will use a personality quiz to match students’ skills and interests to potential STEM careers, identify local companies who employ people with those skills and showcase profiles of hundreds of role models. This platform will also offer resources for teachers.

The Northern Ireland WISE Hub will launch later this year, but right now Matrix and WISE are looking for role models and companies to participate. A new website promoting the WISE Hub and signposting relevant organisations and events in Northern Ireland is now live. It also allows companies and individuals to register their interest in the WISE Hub. The website is named Pulsar, inspired by Dame Jocelyn Bell Burnell, the Northern Ireland astrophysicist who first discovered radio pulsars in 1967.

Emer Murnaghan, WISE Ambassador, a Vice President of the Institution of Civil Engineers and Head of Responsible Sustainable Business for GRAHAM said:

“As a WISE Ambassador I would ask all Northern Ireland companies who employ people with STEM skills to get involved with the WISE Hub. We also want to hear from women who are currently working in science, engineering or technology who would be interested in acting as role models. We know that, ‘If you can’t see it, you can’t be it’, so please get involved with this project and be the inspiration for girls and other young women to choose a career in STEM.”

Minister for the Economy Diane Dodds MLA said:

“I welcome the efforts of the Matrix panel who have consistently promoted the need to encourage more girls and women into these well paid and interesting careers. The current underrepresentation of women with STEM skills in the workforce means that with the right support there is the potential to close the gender gap in these sectors and help grow the economy.”

Dr Rob Grundy, Matrix Chair, said:

“Every Matrix report published to date has highlighted the issue of STEM skills shortages as a barrier to growth in Northern Ireland’s science & technology sectors. Our Women in STEM report argued that if we could encourage more girls to choose a STEM career we could go a long way towards addressing that shortage.

“Only 7.8% girls currently pursue STEM qualifications to the point of employment in a STEM role. That’s the same figure as 2008 and in the modern, vibrant economy that Northern Ireland aspires to be, that’s a shocking supply chain failure. We simply have to make a better effort to convert the huge potential we have into a skilled pool of analytical talent ready to drive our economy through science and technology focussed roles. We are therefore delighted to be working with WISE to introduce their very successful Regional Hub model to Northern Ireland.”