The Global Race in Relay

The Paul Jackson Column

School pupils having to swim the Channel to raise money for science and IT facilities is a worrying trend, but it sets an admirable example of determination and enthusiasm for STEM education.

What does a bobsleigh team and a London secondary school have in common? I realise for those of you with children taking their GCSEs or A Levels a few similarities may come to mind – the tension, the stress, the seemingly never-ending (emotional) rollercoaster.  As I recently found out, however, the inspiring yet unfortunate answer is self-driven fundraising.

Lolo Jones, the American track runner turned bobsleigh athlete, made the news recently for revealing that she and her team mates had to fundraise for themselves in order to finish their season. Around the same time, a less high profile fundraising activity by Camden School for Girls appeared on the Just Giving sponsorship website.

On 27 August six year 8 girls will ‘take the plunge’ to swim in relay the Strait of Dover to France in order to raise funds to upgrade the science labs and IT facilities at their school. This is a great show of dedication to science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) at school, and one which sets an inspirational example to us all.

While it begs the question of why these pupils should have to go to such lengths to achieve access to facilities needed to receive a good STEM education, their commitment demonstrates the value that they rightly see in STEM. Whereas Lolo Jones and her team are campaigning to support their chosen careers, the pupils of Camden School for Girls are having to go the extra mile (actually 21 miles) simply to get the facilities to help deliver the education they need to set them on track for a career in STEM.

To borrow the Prime Minister’s well used phrase, in the ‘global race’ engineering and manufacturing are acknowledged as vital for our current and future economic success. Like Camden School for Girls’ test of endurance, the global race is a marathon in relay involving Government, businesses, education and the wider engineering community. The starting line must begin in schools with good facilities underpinned by robust education and careers guidance, or we risk not ever reaching the finishing line.

EngineeringUK is working with the engineering community to join up our outreach activity to ensure we reach as many young people as possible with effective STEM education. We are working with Professional Engineering Institutions to provide the quality careers information and resources needed to ensure young people can make an informed next step towards a career in STEM.

Those pupils set an excellent example for action, and so should we as a community. Our aim is to reach every young person in the UK with STEM engagement. If you’d like to involve your organisation in reaching and inspiring our future engineering talent then get in touch.

If you want to find out more about engineering demand and our plans to widen participation through our programmes, a good place to start is the EngineeringUK website

You can also find out more about sponsoring Camden School for Girls’ English Channel swim team on the school’s website

Paul Jackson is chief executive of Engineering UK