On Tuesday 4th July, as part of the Potteries Science Festival, I attended the STEM Workshop and Careers fair held at the Burslem School of Arts. The workshop brought together representatives of local companies and universities with the aim of showing students currently looking at both A-level option and potential degree choices the careers and opportunities that studying science and engineering opens up to them.
The format was for the students to circulate around stalls set up by the companies and university groups and also for them to attend short presentations from a number of the companies attending. The companies were very diverse and included local engineering and ceramics companies, software as well as Astra Zeneca, Nova and Cobra from the pharmaceutical sector and about 120 students from local schools most Year 10, but also a few A-level students attended.
The Cobra stand got lots of attention from the students with our bouncy, flashing Cobra balls proving to be as popular as ever (about 50 or so disappeared in 30mins) and there were some great comments about our presentation "Making the Medicines of the Future". The aim of the workshop was to show students the opportunities that studying science and engineering subjects at A level and university open up to them and potential careers it might open up for them in the future. This is really important for the local area as there are a disproportionately low number of students progressing to university often as they have no histories of universities within their families, and local schools and universities are seeking to address this issue through activities like this.
From my perspective it was really interesting to talk to the students and try and answer their questions (some really good ones) about what Cobra does and the products we make. It was also interesting to understand what the students do and do not know about the industry. However, whilst it is wonderful to see that the students are really interested in the work we do once they start to understand it and how it can benefit patients and society; the reality is that without these types of interactions they have very little idea of the possibilities and opportunities that lie before and them and the importance of the choices they are making in terms of the subjects they study and how they go about pursuing potential careers in science and engineering.
In conclusion, I would encourage colleges and others within the industry to support events like this in the future, to promote the importance of the work we do, and to help develop the next generation of scientists.