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Science World Has Launched a New Program to Get More Girls and Indigenous People into Tech

By November 12, 2018No Comments

Over the next 10 years, studies suggest, B.C. will lose two million jobs—but will gain three million more. The catch? We don’t know what they might be.

Technology is moving so fast that it is estimated that two-thirds of students entering elementary school today will be employed in professions that currently don’t exist. Given the rise of computing and automation, around 80 percent of those jobs will require individuals to be competent in STEAM subjects—science, technology, engineering, art and design, and math.

It won’t come as a surprise to anyone, however, to learn that each of those sectors are dominated by those who are affluent, and those who are male.

Science World is aiming to close that gap. Creating an initiative named Symbiosis, the organization hopes to empower female and marginalized youth to pursue careers in STEAM areas by increasing access to high quality educational activities for all. The first program of its kind in Canada, Symbiosis endeavours to prep school-age kids in B.C. for the future job market by connecting students across the province with mentors, resources, and technology.

The initiative is a cross-sector network that includes hundreds of organizations that engage children and youth in STEAM learning. Science World plans for the scheme to involve dynamic collaborations among schools as well as out-of-school programs, visits to museums, science centres, and higher education institutions, and opportunities to experience government and community-based organizations.

Currently, learning opportunities in STEAM fields are not equally available across B.C. A large proportion of youth—particularly in Indigenous and other underserved communities—do not receive a lot of chances to pursue high-quality STEAM education. In addition, organizations that do engage children and youth operate in silos, making it hard to scale them evenly across rural areas as well as urban.

Women and young girls are also presently discouraged from entering STEAM fields. Of all the science, technology, engineering, and math employees in Canada, women make up only 22 percent. In addition, more than half of students who enter high school interested in STEAM subjects change their mind by graduation—with girls being disproportionately represented.

“By spearheading Symbiosis, Science World’s vision is that within five years, every child, teen, and young adult throughout B.C. will have access to quality STEAM learning opportunities—regardless of location, ethnic or cultural background, or family income,” says Dr. Scott Sampson, Science World’s president and CEO. “We know that with proper access, support, and resources, all students across B.C. will have the opportunity to succeed in tomorrow’s workforce.”

Symbiosis will hit three key areas: mentorship, networking, and resources. The program aims to dramatically increase the number of qualified STEAM mentors in B.C., including teachers, scientists, and entrepreneurs. It will then pair them up with youth in communities through classroom visits, on-site shadowing, and paid internships. Finally, it will create an online portal to connect STEAM communities across the province, and provide resources for children and youth to learn new skills and access educational opportunities.