Making STEM subjects – science, technology, engineering and mathematics – exciting and engaging for learners is a challenge faced by teachers around the world. One of the problems is that students often don’t understand the career opportunities that STEM skills offer, and thus lack motivation.
STEM education and associated industries are crucial for economic development, and so there is a pressing need for Africa’s future workers to be proficient in these key subjects. STEM industries include engineering, computer sciences, physics and medicine – the basis of a modern knowledge economy.
GE partnered with Google, volunteer organisation Points of Light and Junior Achievement – an organisation dedicated to educating youth about entrepreneurship, work readiness and financial literacy – to stimulate interest in STEM careers among junior high students in Ghana.
Two hundred students took part in the interactive STEM Careers Awareness Day in Kotobabi, Accra. During the day, the learners heard from GE and Google employees about their careers in engineering and information communication technology and were challenged to use their STEM skills to solve a community problem.
Teams were asked to develop sustainable STEM-based solutions to real issues, such as sanitation and community health. The winning team from Flagstaff House Basic School developed an app-based solution to tackle improper waste disposal by teaching individuals how to sort trash and recycle waste.
“Millions of university graduates are ill prepared for the reality of the contemporary workplace, either by the nature of the courses they study or the non-suitability of the curriculum,” said GE’s communications manager for West Africa, Osagie Ogunbor. “Mentorship is key in bridging the gap between classroom instruction. This is why we are partnering with Junior Achievement in Ghana to show the students the opportunities that abound in the STEM world and how they can make a difference.”
Elizabeth Bintliff, Junior Achievement Africa CEO, said she was impressed with the turnout of GE and Google volunteers and the enthusiasm of participating students. Google is working on a STEM curriculum to be used by students in primary and junior high schools after the campaign, she said.
Continued commitment from business leaders is critical to encouraging Africa’s young people to pursue STEM-related courses and, ultimately, careers. Tomorrow’s engineers, innovators, creators and scientists will help create globally competitive economies.