STEM: Volunteering for Our Future
When putting together Verco’s Corporate Social Responsibility and Environmental Policy and Strategy it was important for the CSR team to consider both the personal and professional growth of the company’s employees, and ways in which Verco can contribute meaningfully to our local community. One way in which we have chosen to try and combine these by “providing dedicated volunteering opportunities for all employees” and encouraging employees to become STEM Ambassadors.
STEM is an acronym used to group together the academic disciplines of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics. At Verco these disciplines are familiar to a significant proportion of our workforce and make STEM an interesting and attractive prospect for volunteering opportunities. Ambassadors are asked to offer their time, enthusiasm and knowledge of a subject to help engage young people with STEM and the value of STEM subjects in life and their future careers.
Most STEM Ambassadors in the UK engage with activities through the charity STEM Learning. STEM Learning is supported through a combination of Government support, charitable trusts and employers and represents the largest community of STEM Ambassadors in the UK. Opportunities to volunteer range from mentoring students over a sustained period, to giving up an hour or two to support a science fair.
STEM Volunteering at Verco
The main criteria to become a STEM Ambassador through the STEM Learning charity is that you must complete at least two activities per year. Towards the end of March 2019, I attended my first activity as a fully-fledged STEM Ambassador, delivering a talk to around 30 Year 10 & 11 students’ as part of a series arranged by the school called ‘Digitech Inspire Sessions’. The studio school delivers an intentionally specialised curriculum that combines core subjects with digital, creative and media technologies. I volunteered to deliver a talk on my personal career journey, with a focus on challenging stereotypes and looking beyond ‘obvious’ careers. Later in the year, I offered to support another school in Bristol who had put out a request for judges for their Year 7 & 8 science fair. Although more in the spirit of fun, it was great to get out and see the amazingly innovative ideas that these 11-year olds were coming up with. A standout for me was the posed ‘How many marshmallows would you need to build the great wall of china?’ I was impressed with their answer which had some sound maths behind it!
Towards the end of 2019, Verco’s Olivia Roberts (pictured above) volunteered at the Engineering Your Future (EYF) event in Manchester. EYF events are one-day career events organised collaboratively by a variety of institutes, including the Institution of Mechanical Engineers, the Institution of Civil Engineers and the Institution of Engineering and Technology, that targets students between 16-18 years old from local schools and aims to give an insight into the wide range of future opportunities in the engineering sector along with the many pathways to get there. Olivia was talking to students about all the exciting things we do here at Verco in her capacity as company representative but also more generally about a career in engineering.
STEM volunteering is central to our core CSR policy and strategy, updated over recent years, with firm targets around the number of sign ups and activities completed. Each future Ambassador who signs up is entitled to attend the required training as well as 0.5 days per annum to attend activities and employees are encouraged to sign up to opportunities outside of work hours too.
Finally, and on a more personal note, it’s great to see women pushing the agenda here and I am excited to see more of the incredible women who work for Verco volunteering to encourage the next generation of female scientists, engineers and programmers!