Last week I had the privilege of attending the inaugural Nature Research Awards. The evening was an incredible celebration of women who have excelled in science.
Mirjana Pović, an astrophysicist, won the Award for Inspiring Science. The Association of Hungarian Women in Science, a non-profit that aims to promote STEM and computer sciences among girls, took home the award for Innovating Science.
The evening was filled with incredible speeches, but the keynote given by Mariette DiChristina, Editor in Chief and Senior Vice President at Scientific American really resonated with me. Mariette spoke about a teacher that inspired her to believe in her abilities and eventually pursue a career in science.
As Mariette spoke, I thought back to my time as a teacher and the influence we have over our students’ futures. Ensuring my students pursued ambitious goals was fundamental to my teaching and eventually led me both to founding The Girls’ Network, and now delivering the vision of Further My Future, equipping teachers, as well as students, for future careers.
As I listened to Mariette, I questioned how equipped I really had been, as a teacher, to provide all of my previous students with the most relevant career advice. I thought of those bright students that didn’t want to go to university. Did I really have the best knowledge to support them? I thought of Maria - a brilliant student who loved science, but was adamant she didn’t want to go to university. She was itching to get straight in to work and earn. The thought of debt and more classroom learning wasn’t for her. I remember Googling ‘work-based learning’ and finding a disappointing and confusing set of search results.
I have often thought, since joining Further My Future and learning more about apprenticeships, that I’d love to go back and have that conversation again. I know now that there’s a huge range of really exciting opportunities for young people outside of university and some really great employers desperate to find amazing young talent like Maria. I’d have recommended that she look at an apprenticeship as an Aerospace Engineer, a Nuclear Technician or a Diagnostic Radiographer. There are some brilliant STEM apprenticeships that she would have thrived in, but back then I simply didn’t have the knowledge to tell her about them. I have spent the past few weeks meeting with brilliant teachers from a variety of secondary schools and it has become clear that the knowledge gap surrounding apprenticeships is still there. Every teacher wants to give their students the best possible advice, but many are much more equipped to assist with UCAS than with apprenticeships.
Apprenticeships, unfortunately, are a tricky landscape for teachers to navigate with very little support for them in doing so. That’s why at Further My Future, I’m excited to bring our programme to schools. We work with schools to support any student looking for an alternative to university and provide each with bespoke advice on what may be their best route to achieve a career that is well suited to their skills, interests, aptitude and location. All our partner schools have access to our virtual schools resource centre which is full of information and resources on apprenticeships.