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Business Twilight session celebrates 20 years of outstanding STEM Ambassadors

Published: Jun 28, 2022 4 min read

STEM learning

Instead of our regular Business Breakfast, our latest in person panel session was a ‘Business Twilight’, held on a June evening at the London HQ of our supporter Jacobs – and it was perfectly timed to coincide with the start of our celebrations around the 20th anniversary of our STEM Ambassador programme.

We’re recognising all the amazing individuals who give their time and expertise to support young people exploring STEM subjects – and this session gave us an excellent opportunity to hear how various individuals and organisations have supported and benefitted from the programme. 
Business Twilight panel - Ajay Sharman, Jelena Gacesa, Monica Lobel
The session was split into two parts, the first looking at impact. This was kicked off by Professor Melanie J Welham, FRSB Executive Chair, Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council and UKRI Executive Champion for People, Culture and Talent. She emphasised that investing in future talent is essential for businesses. The kind of informal learning and support STEM Ambassadors offer is key, as this helps young people see the relevance of science and research beyond school, and to discover science as a career - not just a subject they find interesting.
Ben Dunn, our head of Impact and Evaluation, highlighted the incredible reach of the programme, with 181k activities offered and 100k volunteering hours supporting 15 million young people. “The numbers are big,” he said, “but it’s the individual stories which really show why the programme is effective, changing the lives of students who interact with an Ambassador.” 
Before we moved on to our panel discussion, Donald Morrison, People & Places Solutions Senior Vice President Europe at Jacobs welcomed everyone to the building and shared his thoughts about why it is so important for businesses like Jacobs to engage young people in STEM and the future career opportunities available. Our panellists then took the floor and we heard from:
  • Monica Lobel: Associate Director Social Value, Jacobs
  • Dr James Stones: Patent attorney and partner, Beck Greener LLP
  • Jelena Gacesa: Education Outreach & Safeguarding Lead, Institution of Mechanical Engineers (IMechE)
  • Dr Ajay Sharman: Regional Network Lead for the South East, STEM Learning (and impressively a STEM Ambassador for 19 years)
They each discussed how their organisation has benefitted from being part of the programme. Monica reflected on their three ENTHUSE Partnerships in Manchester, Bristol and Glasgow, which have shown young people clear career pathways in STEM. She said: “Wherever it leads them, it leads to something really positive for those communities.”
Business Twilight panel - James Stones
James described STEM Ambassadors as a “perfect fit” for an SME business looking to undertake CSR, especially one focused on ideas and innovation. He outlined an ‘invention spotting workshop’ Beck Greener runs with young people, helping them take an engaging, hands-on approach to understanding what makes an ‘invention’ and is needed for patent applications – an area in the STEM sectors that most young people were unlikely to encounter.
Jelena discussed the challenges of growing the talent pipeline in the engineering industry and broadening staff skills and retention. The programme helps with both challenges as it can accompany students from primary school through to colleges and apprenticeships. She also noted the success of a student challenge programme run by IMechE.
Ajay spoke about his own involvement in the programme, noting how vital STEM Ambassadors have been in raising the profile of ‘STEM’ in education. He said: “When you see students who engage with STEM Ambassadors, you can see a change in them.” To close, he mentioned the importance of keeping the programme fresh, adapting to future opportunities and looking for new ways to support schools and businesses. 
The session finished with a final thank you to STEM Ambassadors from Yvonne Baker OBE, STEM Learning Chief Executive. Yvonne reflected back on 20 years of the programme and said that she is “humbled by all of those people who have given their time, effort, and passion to make a real difference for young people, especially giving hope to those from diverse or disadvantaged backgrounds.”  To close we screened our new 20th anniversary video and there was an opportunity for everyone to network.
We are currently planning our next business breakfast for September - more details to follow.
If you want to speak to us about how you might support us with any of our programmes, please contact Liz Whitworth (l.whitworth@stem.org.uk) for an initial conversation.
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