Sarah Hedley, the National Skills Lead for Microsoft in the UK took part in the panel discussion on how to engage young people in STEM education during the BIEA STEM Conference on the 15th of January.

The event aimed to promote STEM education to young people and try to draw attention to the skills gap that is developing between the number of STEM graduates and the growing number of STEM jobs that are needed to sustain the economy. Sarah’s position at Microsoft, a key player in tech education and innovation around the world meant that she had some key insights as to the challenges faced by young people when engaging in STEM. In particular, Sarah focused on female participation in STEM and how at the age of 7 girls are keen to take part but by the age of 12, they are far less willing. The panel suggested increasing access to female role models in STEM and smashing preconceptions across STEM could lead to increased diversity which would benefit society as a whole.

Sarah also talked about how companies like Microsoft and the BSA, among others, use their resources to make STEM fun by coming into schools and teaching STEM skills in a way that young people find relatable and engaging. This was widely accepted by the panel as a key way to engage young people in subjects that traditionally are seen as fairly dry.