Explaining STEM: Why Does Wavemaker Promote It?

A lot of people ask us we mean when we say that we offer STEAM workshops and ask us why we’re so passionate about promoting it. Let us explain...

STEM stands for science, technology, engineering and maths. Another popular variant of this term is STEAM which is STEM with the addition of art and design. The inclusion of art is a fairly new addition but we’ll get onto that in a bit.

STEM is being discussed more widely due to the shifting face of the economy and the new skills that will be needed as we enter a more technological age. Skills such as coding, digital versatility, data analysis, and critical thinking will be more in demand as the working world changes. According to the City Outlook 2018 report, ‘the job market will look very different in 2030. As Nesta identifies in The future of skills: employment in 2030, a number of factors, such as technological changes, globalisation and demographic changes will affect employment, reducing demand for some occupations and increasing it for others. Generally, those jobs that are made up of routine tasks are at a greater risk of decline, whereas those occupations requiring interpersonal and cognitive skills are well placed to grow.’

To prepare for this change, more students are being made aware of how STEM subjects, and the transferable skills that can be learnt through many of them, can lead to a range of different careers and progression pathways. Furthermore, by promoting STEM subjects as a viable option for students looking ahead to their futures, learners can have a fun, educational workshop experience which helps to nurture an interest in subjects which, traditionally, may be perceived as ‘boring’ or ‘too challenging’.

In recognition of this change, Wavemaker has also been working alongside teachers- both present and future- to look into how STEAM and digital learning can be implemented in future classes and study. We’ve done this through workshops and close talks with Primary Science School Leaders as well as work with Staffordshire University PGCE students.

While we recognised that we needed to do more to introduce students to the benefits of STEM and digital, interactive learning, it was the realisation that the change would have serious implications for the future citizens of Stoke-on-Trent that made us more driven to support young people. The shift in the job market is perhaps one of the biggest threats to upcoming workers within Stoke-on-Trent, with the same report predicting that, ‘in places like Mansfield, Sunderland, Wakefield and Stoke almost 30 percent of the current workforce is in an occupation very likely to shrink by 2030.’ The report has made us reassess topics and skills that we could discuss with learners, and to incorporate real-world examples and transferable life skills within our workshops to help learners better adapt for the industrial shift.

Now, you know how important STEM is, you might be wondering why we promote STEAM. We choose to incorporate art and design in our approach as creativity and, more specifically, creative thinking is an important skill that is necessary to all subjects and future careers. The move from STEM to STEAM started in America and has since been making its way over into the UK. To read more about this, you can read this article or check out the STEM to STEAM organisation’s website.

One of the ways that we continue to promote STEAM is by working closely with Higher Horizons+, an organisation that aims to get more young people thinking about further and higher education. This year, we hosted workshops at numerous schools as part of our Full STEAM Ahead initiative. Due to the interest from both teachers and students, we’ll be doing it all over again next year with even more workshops on offer! We’re finalising the details but hope to have the leaflet ready for prospective schools, within Stoke-on-Trent, soon.

We also continue to work with schools through the Mitchell Art Centre’s Essential Life Skill scheme and continue to communicate with educators and educating bodies from around the area to discuss how we can incorporate more STEAM activities in classrooms, and prepare young people for what’s to come.

In the meantime, Wavemaker will continue to promote STEM (and STEAM!) subjects and help students from across Stoke-on-Trent, and beyond, realise their potential and discover how to leave a mark on our digitising world.