Top Life Sciences join forces with Cork schools to tackle Ireland’s STEM skill shortage

Ireland’s leading biopharmaceutical and life science companies have joined forces with three Cork schools in a bid to tackle Ireland’s STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) skills shortage. Transition year (TY) students from Carrigaline Community School, Kinsale Community School and Christ King Secondary School – are taking part in the STEM TY Challenge, an initiative which aims to increase interest in – and experience of – STEM amongst young students and in doing so, improve the numbers of young Irish people pursuing careers in Ireland’s STEM sector.

The STEM TY Challenge will culminate in an exhibition held in Munster Technological University (MTU) on Friday Nov 11th between 10 am – 12 pm, where participants will showcase their work in front of their fellow students and key industry and education players.

The initiative is being piloted by top cork-based Irish pharmaceuticals Pfizer, Lilly, Janssen, DePuy Synthes, Thermo Fisher Scientific and Hovione, who have given 24 of the TY students the opportunity to complete a mentorship with them.

“The impetus for this initiative is three-fold: to deal with the myths surrounding STEM, to showcase the breath of the opportunity that is in STEM and STEM careers in the region, and to generate a pipeline of talent for companies in Cork region – and beyond,” said Marguerite O Sullivan, Director of Learning and Development at Johnson & Johnson and chair of STEM South West. “The students involved have learned an incredible amount from the initiative and developed key skills which will stand to them, and their employers, in the future.”

The Cork-based consortium involved in the initiative believe that the region’s future economic performance depends, in part, on the pursuit of STEM careers by students.

“As advocates of STEM and working in STEM roles in Pfizer, we see this opportunity to provide a greater understanding of STEM to TY students as an invaluable experience which we would have loved to have been involved in during our time at school. As past pupils of the school to which we are mentors, we can see how beneficial this experience would have been during our time spent in TY and we hope to see some of the mentees working in the biopharmaceutical industry in the future” say Keeva McCarthy and Aoife Dunlea, of Pfizer Ireland Pharmaceuticals, Ringaskiddy about the STEM TY Challenge.

Norma Kelly, Senior Process Chemistry Manager from Thermo Fisher Scientific, and a key backer of the STEM TY Challenge, explained why the exhibition is being made open to the students’ peers: “We are keen to increase the appeal of STEM careers to young people. The huge influence friends have on the career choice of students was evident in a government-commissioned report.

The report – by the economic consultants, Indecon – found that students consult friends when deciding what career path to pursue in life”, she added, “As well as gaining an understanding of the breadth of career opportunities in STEM, the students have also built their communication, problem-solving and creativity skills – skills that employers are looking for in candidates.”

STEM TY Challenge organisers are inviting schools and employers who would like to attend the MTU Event, to visit