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Women in STEM 2019

Educating teachers on the opportunities available in STEM

Aoife Macken,

Connecting Women in Technology

Teachers are one of the most important influences on a child’s life, so we need to help reframe their thinking around STEM subjects.

Connecting Women In Tech’s (CWIT) vision is to harness the power of the collective voice of the technology industry in Ireland to raise the profile of women in the technology sector. The goal is to attract more females into careers in technology and provide opportunities to retain and promote those already working in this sector.

The ‘Girls in STEM’ reports – published by Accenture in 2013, 2015 and 2017 – all consistently showed that teachers are one of the biggest influencers in young girls’ lives. The reports also highlighted that teachers do not have sufficient information on what it is like to work in a STEM industry or what careers can follow from taking a STEM subject at second and third level at school.

The STEM Teacher Internship Programme was piloted by DCU in partnership with Accenture and 30%Club in 2016 to address this gap. The programme is led by Associate Professor Eilish McLoughlin, Director CASTeL and Chair of the BSc in Science Education and Professor Deirdre Butler who specialises in Digital Learning. The overall aim is to provide future STEM teachers with a personal experience of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) roles and careers in Industry.

I teach at a primary school and took part in the STEM Teacher Internship programme in 2018. My internship was at Microsoft. It was overwhelming at first because I don’t have a background in science or technology, but there were so many people supporting me. The internship was so valuable. It’s made me look at my planning, and how I integrate technology effectively into my lessons to develop children’s thinking and enhance their learning.

Claire O’Halloran, teacher at Pelletstown ET

A paid internship for trainee STEM teachers

A 12-week paid internship is offered to pre-service teachers training to qualify as primary and secondary level STEM teachers. The internship provides them with a unique opportunity to re-frame their thinking around STEM subjects and the opportunities that follow.

CWIT has been a strong promoter of this to all the member companies and industry partners, and has significantly contributed to the  growth of this programme over the last four years. To date, 22 students from DCU have completed the internship and approximately half of them have started teaching in schools.

In summer 2019, a further 33 students will go through internship programme at 20 of leading tech companies based in Ireland including CWIT members – Accenture, Ericsson, EY, HPE, IBM, Intel, Microsoft, Virgin Media, Vodafone and Xilinx.

One teacher can impact thousands of school children

The testimonials from these teachers and their principals highlight the positive impact they bring to their classrooms – and the staffrooms – as they introduce the pupils to collaborative and creative ways of working.

The impact of the programme is immense, as each primary level teacher can impact 1,200 students during a typical career span, while at secondary level, this is even higher – one teacher might influence 5,000 students during a typical 40-year career.

I took my STEM Teacher Internship at Accenture in 2016. I was working with a team offering companies new technologies such as artificial intelligence, machine learning and big data management. It was interesting to see the STEM side of the company, but also the business side to get an insight into what drives the research and development of certain technologies. I’d recommend the experience of working in industry without a shadow of a doubt. I wouldn’t have learned things I did without my internship.

Thomas McMahon, teacher at Firhouse CC

Bringing industry and education together

Representatives from member companies collaborate on a voluntary basis and deliver a number of programmes that may have been developed by one of the member companies or in partnership with other organisations. One of our key initiatives is the STEM Teacher Internship programme that we deliver in partnership with DCU.

DCU’s ambition is to scale this programme nationally to more companies and other universities over the next two years. We are committed to promoting the programme to our member companies and other industry partners that we collaborate with, and we look forward to realising the impact of this programme on the teaching and learning of STEM in Irish primary and second level classrooms for many generations to come.


CWIT (Connecting Women in Technology) was founded by Dell, Microsoft and Accenture in 2011 and has now grown to 18 companies, including, Dropbox, BT, Eir, Ericsson, EY, Facebook, Google, HPE, IBM, Intel, LinkedIn, Virgin Media, Vodafone, Twitter and Xilinx.

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