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Omagh STEM Conference Provides Links between the School Curriculum and the World of Work

Omagh STEM Conference Provides Links between the School Curriculum and the World of Work

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The promotion of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) was top of the agenda at a one day joint Education and Library Board regional conference held recently at Silverbirch Hotel, Omagh. 

The event was organised by an Inter-Board team from Curriculum, Advisory and Support Services (CASS), and was attended by 70 STEM and Careers Education, Information, Advice and Guidance (CEIAG) post primary teachers from the WELB and SELB areas.

The promotion of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics continues to be a priority for the Northern Ireland Government as it is predicted that it is from these areas that the skills for future workforces will be required, and as such funding has been made available by the Department of Education to prioritise work in these areas.

The STEM conference gave teachers the opportunity to gain a better understanding of the vocational and academic needs of industry on a practical level by networking with employers from 20 businesses who require a workforce with STEM qualifications, and to also partake in site visits to six STEM employers in the Omagh area. 

The site visits were to Terex, Fane Valley, Strathroy Dairy, Telestack, AFBI (Agri-Food and Biosciences Institute) and First Trust Bank.

The conference was opened by Aidan McCormick, Education Adviser SELB and presentations followed by Michelle Fulton, BELB and Jayne FitzGerald SELB.

Commenting on the possible career opportunities and pathways within STEM Aidan McCormick, SELB said; “ Today is about raising awareness of STEM related subjects and the role that these play within our society and economy, in order to encourage young people to consider STEM related areas as career opportunities.  Teachers play a key role in making the connections between the curriculum and the world of work to facilitate quality 11-19 education and quality Career Education, Careers Information and Careers Guidance in all our schools”. 

Teachers and employers alike found the conference highly beneficial in forging links between post-primary schools and industry, including Paula Burns, Omagh High School who stated: “The recent regional STEM CEIAG conference was a great event for Careers and STEM teachers; a wonderful opportunity to find out more about our local STEM employers and the skills and qualifications they will be looking for from our students in the future.  We had the chance to acquire genuine, up to date, easy to understand, labour market information, which we can take back to our schools and share with our students and teachers.  We really appreciated the engagement of so many employers.  The chance to ask questions and make contacts has been a real bonus and will offer schools and employers the chance to build meaningful partnerships in the future.  A big thank you must go to all the employers involved, but also to those involved in the organisation of this very successful event”.

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Diane Moore from Castlederg High School cited: “The STEM conference in Omagh was an extremely informative event.  It is such a great opportunity to speak to people from STEM related industries and to hear first-hand of the fantastic employment opportunities that are right here in Northern Ireland.  I have already been telling the pupils of CHS about the wide variety of employment opportunities that STEM subjects can lead them into, and the real need for suitably skilled labour.  I also thoroughly enjoyed seeing the fascinating facilities of the AFBI Veterinary Laboratory in Omagh, and was delighted to hear of the opportunities for pupils to spend time there on work experience”.

Valerie Mowbray from Castlederg High School also commented: “Very often teachers can become isolated from industry because of the pressures within our jobs.  Like our pupils, we need to be exposed to other areas of work and this is exactly what the STEM CEIAG conference provided for us.  We have so much to learn from industry and companies including NIE, Fane Valley Feeds, AFBI, Dunbia and Allstate showed us the range of different jobs available in their companies and the type of work our pupils can expect to experience.  These companies, along with Further and Higher Educational Institutes, outlined the necessary pathways to securing employment in the STEM industries.  The event was very well organised and has certainly better informed teachers on the available STEM careers in N. Ireland.  It has provided an excellent foundation for us to better inform our own pupils.”

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Sean Carlin from St Michael’s Enniskillen agreed: “This event was important and worked on a number of levels. It is always great to meet employers and see things from different perspectives. For me as a Careers teacher it was a chance to gain up to date and relevant information that I can share with my pupils, hopefully informing them in a way that allows them to choose relevant career paths that support and enrich our economy. It was quite an insight into the type and variety of employers that we have in Mid-Ulster and Belfast areas and it is amazing just how many successful and innovative companies that we have on our doorstep. A great event that I would love to see happening again in the future”.                      

From an employers’ point of view, Aileen O’Kane Human Resource Manager, Dunbia NI commented: “Dunbia is delighted to participate in the STEM and Careers Conference in Omagh.  The importance of the STEM subjects cannot be over-stated for a company like Dunbia.  As a company with over 4000 employees in 13 sites across the UK and Ireland, we employ people in every discipline including food science, engineering, production, sales, environmental management, agricultural research, finance and HR.  In every area the STEM subjects are crucial.  We hope that our involvement in the STEM conference will help teachers reinforce this message to students planning out their future careers.”

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The Southern Education and Library Board (the ‘Board’) was established as part of Local Government reorganisation in 1973 and is the largest of the five area Boards. The Board's principle functions are the provision of education and youth services to the District Council areas of Armagh, Banbridge, Cookstown, Craigavon, Dungannon & South Tyrone and Newry & Mourne. It spans 1,450 square miles with a total population of approximately 390,300 including 75,767 pupils.


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