Anne Bailey portrait image

When Astra Zeneca invited me to help judge the Energy Challenge I leapt at the chance. Offering schools the chance to take part in activities like this is so important: giving students the chance to meet people working at Astra Zeneca, learn more about what they do, and have the chance to connect what they’re learning at school with activities from ‘the real world’ can make a profound difference to the children’s ideas for their own future career.

Starting our interventions early, in primary school, is essential as prejudices and biases take hold very early on. Research tells us that children as young as six have already started to buy into outdated stereotypes. Challenging the idea of what it means to be a scientist, whether it’s only for the super brainy kids or ‘nerds’, that it’s only for boys, or even gaining the knowledge that careers in science exist at all is extremely important. It’s particularly important in the Cambridge region where we have such an exciting range of companies working in life sciences, healthcare and MedTech.

Companies are already worried about a ‘skills gap’ so we know we must do more to attract people into these fields. It’s also important to open a window into a career that could be rewarding in so many ways. My company, Form the Future, exists to do just that: connect young people with a world of career opportunities, inspire them to dream big and empower them to fulfil their potential. We run activities where students need to guess the career of different visiting professionals. It’s always a delight to see the wonder on their faces when they meet a female astronaut or a male nurse. But additionally, it’s also great when they get the chance to have a go at the science and technology themselves. I will never forget a young girl from the Abbey ward in Cambridge, where the median income level is far below average in Cambridge and career expectations can be very low, taking part in a coding activity for the first time. When she managed to programme her RaspberryPi to make her doorbell ring she was amazed – and her ideas of what she might be able to do in the future was changed forever.

I’m looking forward to seeing what the students gain from the Energy Challenge and hope that some may be resetting their own career aspirations as a result.

In fact, getting students to work out ideas themselves, with the right prompting from the teacher should underpin good practical work. Learning through inquiry in this way gives students real ownership of their learning, and gives them the experience of being scientists.

Anne Bailey, CEO, Form the Future CIC