From education to employment

Unlocking potential: The importance of investing in young STEM minds

Theresa Palmer, Head of Diversity and Inclusion at BAE Systems Digital Intelligence- FE News Exclusive Background

In this article, Theresa Palmer explores the importance of investing in young minds pursuing STEM. Highlighting the need for businesses and industries to embrace DE&I while offering learning opportunities to attract, retain and develop talent. 

The digital age has transformed the way businesses and industries operate, demanding a workforce with collective expertise, adaptability and creativity. To deliver innovative technologies, offer world-class consultancy and meet customers’ evolving needs, we must have the right combination of skills and experience in place.

Embracing diversity, equity and inclusion, along with accessible learning opportunities, is an important part of this process. These factors are pivotal in attracting, retaining and developing talent, especially as we face the ongoing digital skills gap. According to our research, 97% of decision-makers within critical industries admit a shortage of talent is hindering their ability to gain a digital advantage.

But we shouldn’t just think about the present; we also need to look ahead. It is essential to prepare for the emergence of digital skills that will be in high demand in the years ahead, and build a future-ready workforce. That’s why it’s so important to invest in nurturing talent by helping young people develop their skills and set them up for success.

Enabling skill development

 At BAE Systems Digital Intelligence, we are committed to facilitating education and developing skills to empower young individuals. Through our strategic partnerships and initiatives, we aim to inspire and engage the next generation in STEM fields. For instance, our collaboration with InnovateHer connects students with industry role models and provides e-learning platforms in schools across the North West of England. We want to show young people that there are multiple pathways to success in STEM, be it through apprenticeships, internships or immediately after getting a university degree.

We also value the power of innovation and creativity; these are traits that we actively look for in our employees. That’s why we created an engaging game called ‘Legend of the Cyber King,’ which was showcased at this year’s Cheltenham Science Festival. The game combines technology and entertainment to introduce young people to the captivating world of cybersecurity by teaching them how to ‘crack the code’.

By offering immersive experiences and demonstrating the real-world impact of our work, we hope to spark curiosity and attract young minds to pursue careers in STEM – particularly those who may not have previously considered the industry open to them.

At the same time, we are taking steps to provide equal opportunities for all ages, including those who want to return to the STEM industry after taking a break in their career. For example, we have partnered with Tech Returners, a programme that helps anyone get up to speed with modern Java and frontend technologies, and ‘Coding Black Females’, an initiative that enables black women who already have some experience as software engineers to return to this field following a career break.

These are both equally as important as reaching those who may be completely new to the field, which our partnership with Code First Girls does to help women of all backgrounds build and develop their digital skills. We also have our own Cyber Accelerator, which provides an opportunity for individuals with software development experience to take their first step into the world of national security.

Making an impact

 Newly-launched research from Oxford Economics reveals the broader BAE Systems business’ investment of £140 million in recruiting and developing apprentices, graduates and placement students in 2022. These have been highly successful, with a record-breaking 1,070 new apprentices, as well as 710 graduates and undergraduates, hired just last year.

And we’re not planning on slowing down. Giving opportunities to young people from all backgrounds – empowering them to develop and maximise their potential in the digital age – will always be core to our mission.

We as a business take great pride in our ongoing efforts to support young individuals. Equipping them with the skills they need will give them a brighter and more secure future in STEM, while at the same time enabling us to continue making the world a safer and more prosperous place.

We believe there needs to be collective effort where governments, industries and educational institutions collaborate to create accessible learning opportunities and foster an environment that nurtures innovation and curiosity. By doing so, we can inspire and equip the next generation to become visionary leaders and problem solvers.

By Theresa Palmer, Head of Diversity and Inclusion at BAE Systems Digital Intelligence

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