Raising awareness – a step forward in addressing the skills gap in STEM
The National STEM Career Expo kicked off today at Esplora, Interactive Science Centre, Kalkara with a number of schoolchildren in Years 4, 5 & 6 (late primary) who attended in collaboration with the National School Support Services within the Ministry for Education and Employment (MEDE).
The Expo is being held as part of a tripartite initiative between the Malta Council for Science & Technology (MCST), the University of Malta (UM) and the Malta College of Arts, Science & Technology (MCAST) with the support of MEDE.
Hosting over 25 entities including (private companies, government bodies, research performing institutions, and NGOs, amongst others.) the STEM Career Expo showcases a broad range of occupations in the field of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics). It offers a unique opportunity for children and their families to meet professionals from a wide variety of fields (such as engineering, computer science, health science, pharmacy, data analysis, science communication, manufacturing, space science, environmental conservation and marine science,) and engage with them via short, interactive, hands-on activities. Building, coding, quizzes, role-play games are just some of the activities in store. Additional activities taking place during the weekend include a STEM Game Show, a Guess What I Do Who/Hot Seat Game coordinated by JobsPlus, a mini maker space and a storytelling session for our youngest guests.
The Expo will be open for school visits from Tuesday to Friday from 9 am until 1 pm, and for the general public on Saturday 25th and Sunday 26th January from 10 am until 6 pm.
MCST’s Executive Chairman, Dr Jeffrey Pullicino Orlando, stated that Esplora regards the STEM-related skills shortages situation as being one of national importance and therefore increasing the public’s interest in the field is one of its priorities. He said that “Esplora provides all possibilities for visitors-from students to seniors-to explore and expose themselves to the diverse STEM careers options that are currently available.” Dr Pullicino Orlando believes that more children and youths should be supported to ensure that our future generation is well equipped with the knowledge and skills needed to tap into the opportunities being created in STEM.
University Rector, Professor Alfred J Vella, said that “while promoting STEM education, the University wants to actively encourage students and youth researchers to involve them in research.” Professor Vella emphasised the importance of national commitment to promote STEM careers “since this is to the benefit of our citizens as well as to those who create work opportunities for tomorrow. It is crucial the latter give importance to transferrable and 21st century skills that form an integral part of different career opportunities.”
MCAST Principal and CEO, Professor James Calleja, said MCAST’s educational programmes provide work-based learning opportunities and the needed support for students to be able to fill existing and upcoming job vacancies and acquire related skills. This is done through closer collaboration with industry. He highlighted the fact that “such initiatives as those at ESPLORA facilitate the nurturing of primary children’s mindsets toward science and technology since these are the components of the future workplace. STEM offers a wide variety of job opportunities which are on the rise and in demand. We need to ensure that our workforce is suitably equipped for such a demand.”
According to The Future of Jobs report compiled by the World Economic Forum, 65 % of the jobs our children will do will be new careers. Most will be STEM-related. Beyond this soaring demand for professionals, STEM subjects are also essential for children and young people to develop crucial life skills such as solving problems, evaluating data and thinking creatively.
Further to the National STEM engagement conference which was held last May, a collective STEM Engagement Position Paper was presented by the three entities. The position paper presented a recommendation for a STEM Working Group to push forward the cohesive ideas presented in the tripartite proposal as well as the development of a consolidated Malta Science Communication Strategy. The STEM Career Expo came about as one of the actions put forward by the working group.
Attending for the STEM Engagement Conference were members from the STEM Engagement Working Group including Jobsplus, the National Skills Council and the Institute for Education.
The STEM Career Expo is part-financed by the Erasmus+ Project RAISE “Raising Awareness and Interest in STEAM Employment”.
For more information on the exhibitors, activities and competitions, kindly follow the