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Published: 14 November 2013

Surrey inspires next generation of scientists

The University recently hosted TeenTech®, giving hundreds of school students the chance to experience science in action.

TeenTech® is an award-winning, industry-led initiative aimed at giving young people an insight into the many exciting career paths opened up by taking STEM subjects (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) for GCSE, A Level and beyond. With its strong reputation for teaching and research in these subjects, the University was delighted to host the event for the second year running in November, in conjunction with local education charity SATRO.

Launched in 2008, TeenTech® is the brainchild of co-founders Maggie Philbin (former presenter of BBC’s Tomorrow’s World) and Chris Dodson, OBE, Institute of Directors (IoD). The drive to nurture young talent in science and technology is a major focus for Maggie, who has been chosen to lead a Labour-backed taskforce to develop young people’s digital skills. Independent of politics, this taskforce will review the growing IT skills gap in the UK and identify how the talented stars of tomorrow can be encouraged, with the findings to be published in the Philbin report.

This year’s TeenTech® saw students from secondary schools across the South of England descending on Surrey Sports Park to learn from those at the top of their field. In the morning, the University welcomed 250 12 and 13-year olds, while the afternoon was dedicated to AS Level students, who were able to find out more about the many science and technology degrees available and the career paths to which they can lead.

Students got to meet scientists and engineers from some of the world’s leading companies – including P&G and Virgin Media – and had the opportunity to conduct hands-on experiments and explore a range of scientific areas. Some of the highlights were seeing a planet show in an inflatable mobile planetarium, programming robots, solving a forensic crime scene, running a production line, becoming a virus detective and creating digital art.

Maggie Philbin, CEO of TeenTech comments: “It is important for companies to be actively involved in helping young people and their teachers understand what the real opportunities are in their industries, and the skills needed to take advantage of them. The commitment shown by all the companies participating is fantastic, showing how they are taking this responsibility seriously. It is not enough to moan about the skills shortage, we need to actively change the current perceptions held by teenagers and their parents about the future employment possibilities in the region." 

David Seall, Chairman, IoD Surrey comments: “With the current Government’s priorities shifting the balance of the UK economy towards manufacturing and engineering, the need for STEM graduates is acute. At the heart of this dilemma is the need to encourage students to pursue STEM GCSE and A levels. No-one is more keenly aware of this need than our membership, which includes numerous local employers from SMEs to large corporates operating across a wide range of industries. The IoD Surrey is doing all it can to help the X Factor generation understand the real opportunities available in the workplace and ensure the future prosperity of business in Surrey.”

Research conducted at last year’s TeenTech® event shows that learning about the many careers offered by science and technology genuinely changes students’ attitudes. Asked at the beginning and end of the day if they would consider a career in science, students’ positive responses leapt from 51 per cent to 81 per cent, while for engineering, they increased from 48 per cent to 79 per cent.

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