Inspiring the next generation to shape the future of STEM

Last week Liz Manning, Business Development Manager at Catexel, took time out of her busy schedule to visit Sale High School, in Sale, Greater Manchester, as part of the Chamber of Greater Manchester’s Reach for the Future Programme to talk about careers in the STEM industries.

The programme aims to connect 11 to 14-year-old students and STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) employers, introducing young minds to the opportunities presented by STEM and ensuring British industry has a skilled and talented workforce for the future.

When speaking to the students, STEM subjects were rarely among the preferred subjects being studied – which is a shame, as these fast-paced, innovative industries offer so much scope for a rewarding career. I talked about my career so far, my role at Catexel and our work in supporting sustainable textiles – shedding some light on the challenges that face the fashion industry – an area their age group can easily relate to. The children were keen to hear about the places I had been throughout my career and the strange foods I had tried (being particularly horrified by lobster brains and sea spiders) all in the name of selling chemicals. Hopefully, this revealed the diversity of STEM careers you can go into – not all jobs in the industry involve white coats and lab reports.

When discussing STEM with younger age groups, it’s so important to place it within a context they understand. This encourages more engagement when talking about scientific and technical areas, as placing the discussion within a familiar context makes it tangible and understandable.

As it’s only a few years before many of the students I spoke to will be crafting CVs in the hope of getting their first part-time job, I provided some practical advice on job interviews. I shared basic, practical tips, like turning up on time, being presentable and dressing appropriately, and researching the company thoroughly beforehand. Although many of these may seem like common sense, it’s unbelievable how many hopefuls forget – so I thought it was worth really drilling home the basics, and providing tips they could all use no matter what career they decide to embark upon.

Although I may be a little bit biased, I do think roles in sales or marketing can be a strong career choice for those interested in STEM industries but maybe aren’t interested in the academic or research side, and want a more people-orientated role. Scientific research, technological advancements and engineering are after all undertaken by commercial businesses who need sales, marketing and HR professionals to drive growth and success.

I’d encourage anyone in a STEM role who shares a passion for encouraging and inspiring the next generation to take a part in events like this, to demonstrate how varied and rewarding these industries can be.

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