Student aspirations STEM from West Midlands careers festival

Published 21/04/2020
3 minutes Read

250 students from 22 schools and colleges across the West Midlands descended on our landmark venue, Millennium Point, last month in Birmingham to take part in an eclectic festival of employment workshops and careers activities, designed to inspire interest in Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) opportunities.

What is it?

Funded by our charitable trust and delivered by social enterprise Ahead Partnership; one of several recipients of the 2019/20 Millennium Point Charitable Trust’s Small Grants Programme, #STEMFestWM saw local businesses join forces to address the STEM skills deficit and help to maximise the sector’s potential to incite regional economic growth.

The second hugely successful festival was hosted in our multi-award-winning venue over 3 days and attracted an exceptional turnout of young people and employers, so much so that the festival was oversubscribed with requests from school and college to attend.

The second hugely successful festival was hosted in our multi-award-winning venue over 3 days and attracted an exceptional turnout of young people and employers, so much so that the festival was oversubscribed with requests from school and college to attend. (image courtesy of Ahead Partnership)

What happened?

Supported by numerous reputable businesses from across the West Midlands including PwC, InterCity Technology and Pinsent Masons, #STEMFestWM provided local employers with the opportunity to engage directly with secondary school and post-16 students, aiding their employees’ personal development whilst raising awareness of careers and opportunities within the STEM sector.

The first day of activity saw over 150 female Year 8 students come together at Millennium Point for the #GirlTechWM event to learn more about the Digital and Technology sectors across rotational mini-workshops run by a host of local employers.

The last day of activity proved most popular, with around 180 Year 9 and 10 students partaking in speed-networking style workshops and interactive careers panels. Post-16 students were also invited to visit PwC, InterCity Technology and Pinsent Masons offices throughout the week, to gain first-hand of experience of what it’s like to work for the organisations involved.

Addressing the regional skills gap

In a region where 89% of STEM businesses face difficulty recruiting the necessary talent, the extremely high demand from West Midlands schools demonstrated the appetite for careers activities focused on STEM roles amongst young people.

We’ve talked previously about the importance of addressing the STEM skills gap in the West Midlands and how we are facilitating change through supporting wonderful partners such as Ahead Partnership.

Following the first day of #STEMFestWM, 73% of students that attended agreed that they would now consider a career in the digital and tech sectors – which are projected to bring in more than £1.3bn alone to the West Midlands by 2025.

This 3-day festival follows in the wake of last year’s event — also funded and hosted by Millennium Point.

“A clear need for this type of initiative”

Stephanie Burras CBE, Chief Executive of Ahead Partnership, said: “We are very proud of the success of our second STEM festival in the West Midlands.”

“The growing scale of this event demonstrates a clear need for this type of initiative in the region, and it is our mission to equip young people with better awareness of and access to the fantastic opportunities available to them.”

“The STEM sector has significant potential to add huge value to the West Midlands economy, and with exciting milestones for the region approaching, such as the 2022 Commonwealth Games, the number of roles out there and the pressure to fulfil these is only going to increase. As such, we are proud to be supporting the region’s growing skills demand in a way that is inclusive and accessible to young people.”

(Above) We catch up with Stephanie Burras, Chief Executive of Ahead Partnership for a closer look at what they do and the funding they received from us in 2019.

Abigail Vlahakis, CEO of Millennium Point, said: “2018/19 marked an incredibly successful first year for our Small Grants Programme and we are delighted to have been able to build on this activity in 2019/20, with a programme of STEM activities which is even bigger and more diverse in scope.

“Our region has great potential for growth in the STEM sector, but we are facing concerning difficulties in meeting the sector’s skills demand. Ahead Partnership’s work is aligned with our own ambitions to enhance STEM learning and career aspirations in the West Midlands, and we’re delighted to fund this hugely worthwhile project that has seen so many young people leave engaged and inspired.”

Katherine Bond, National Schools Engagement Manager at PwC, also added: “The STEM sector in the West Midlands is becoming one of our most important industries and this festival is a fantastic way for young people to become more aware of upcoming opportunities, whilst helping us to future-proof our own workforce pipeline.

“This event has grown in size and scale this year, along with the skills demand of our region, and so we’re proud to have worked with Millennium Point Charitable Trust, Ahead Partnership and the other businesses involved as part of this incredibly important initiative once again, which will not only benefit our sector, but more importantly, our young people.”

Footage from the festival was recorded by media students from South & City College and shared across social media. The festival forms part of a busy calendar of skills initiatives delivered by Ahead Partnership across the country that seek to raise young people’s career aspirations, help businesses acquire sector-fulfilling talent and develop young people’s social capital.

Any employers interested in finding out how they can support this work can find out more by contacting Ahead Partnership on 0300 124 0496.

Millennium Point is a landmark public building and multi-award-winning events venue in the Eastside of Birmingham City centre. Profits from our commercial activity are invested by the Millennium Point Charitable Trust into projects, events and initiatives which support the growth of science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) and education in the West Midlands. 

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