STEM Teacher Internship Programme Secures Highly Competitive Funding

In early December 2019, Minister for Training, Skills, Innovation, Research and Development, John Halligan TD, announced that 47 projects are to receive funding to improve public engagement with STEM and to promote STEM education with under-represented groups. The STEM Teacher Internship programme is one of only a few projects that will receive two-year funding for a strategic partnership led by Dublin City University in collaboration with Connecting Women in Technology (CWIT) and 30% Club. This funding support will enable the employment of a full-time project manager to manage this unique programme and scale it nationally to other pre-service STEM teacher programmes. A full-time researcher will also be recruited to evaluate the sustained impact of this programme on the participating teachers.

This flagship programme places pre-service primary and secondary STEM teachers in paid internships in technology and pharmaceutical companies so that they can gain first-hand experience of STEM roles and careers in industry, over a 12-week summer period. As well as the hands-on technical experience that these teacher gain, they also develop their understanding of what soft skills are needed to be successful in industry. This is a very powerful initiative as teachers, along with parents, are reported to be the biggest influencers on students’ career choices. When these teachers share their own experiences with students, they are empowered to bring a deeper understanding of STEM concepts, applications and careers to their students learning and development.

In 2016, DCU, Accenture and 30% Club launched a pilot summer internship programme to provide pre-service STEM teachers with hands-on experience of STEM careers and STEM roles in a technology company. In collaboration with CWIT and 30% Club and led by DCU Professors Eilish McLoughlin and Deirdre Butler, this programme has grown steadily over the past 4 years and to date 54 students (20 primary school teachers, 34 secondary level school teachers) have participated in internships, e.g. in 2019, 19 companies across technology, consulting, pharmaceutical, and finance sectors participated.

The direct impact of these 54 teachers during their 40-year teaching career has been estimated at 194,000 students. The funding support from Science Foundation Ireland will support further growth of this programme and the target is to facilitate internships for 50 STEM pre-service teachers in 2020 and a further 75 placements in 2021. Companies are invited to register their interest in participating as a host organization in this programme please email info@stemteacherinternships.ie or contacting the programme’s industry liaisons Jennifer McKenna and Shalini Hollingum.

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