I believe it is vital for all students to understand the importance and relevance of maths to their future options. Seeing how maths is actually used by employers can have a powerful impact on their subject choices. Research suggests that “Perceived utility is one of the key reasons for students choosing mathematics post-16 and conversely, students who do not consider mathematics useful are less likely to study it, and this is accentuated for girls”.
Are you and your students aware of the opportunities for them to gain these experiences? If not, read on.
Bringing your students to an AMSP enrichment event is one way you can provide such experiences. These events provide opportunities to link the maths curriculum to careers, meet employers, encounter further and higher education and, in some instances, gain experience of the workplace. They can also help your school or college to reach the eight Gatsby benchmarks of Good Career Guidance, which are used by the Government’s Careers Strategy to set a standard of excellence for schools and colleges.
Another important way is to encourage your students to take up work experience opportunities. As well as helping to build students’ confidence and develop their personal skills (and providing content for their UCAS form!), work experience may also increase the likelihood of them taking maths further. A study by the Institute of Fiscal Studies, ‘How can we increase girls’ uptake of maths and physics A-level?’ found that 98% of teachers thought that offering girls work experience in STEM occupations would be effective or very effective in increasing girls’ pursuit of maths and physics at A-level.
Work experience and insight days/weeks are fabulous opportunities for students to see the relevance of studying maths to their future ambitions. Some organisations offer students the chance to spend a week or so in the summer seeing for themselves what a particular career might entail. Of particular interest are the Insight Weeks offered by PwC:
“This year, we’re very excited to be able to offer 500 students across the UK the chance to join us in summer 2020 for a week of paid work experience. We’re offering a Business Insight Week (focusing on tax, accounting & consulting); an Accounting Insight Week and a Digital Insight Week (focusing on tech, data science and the digital world). Students in Year 12 will have the chance to gain a real insight into what we do at PwC, how we do it and where they might fit in. We’re hoping that they will gain in experience, skills and confidence during these weeks, and that we can help them with their next career steps.”
Katherine Bond, PwC National Schools Engagement Manager
Other examples for Year 12 students, where they can spend time in the summer experiencing what it is like to study or work in a maths-centred environment, include Nuffield Research Placements, Sutton Trust Summer Schools and Headstart.
All of the options mentioned here are either free or offer bursaries to encourage a diversity of applicants. They have different closing dates but now is a good time to get applications in.
The other thing that is great about work experience opportunities is that you can just highlight them to your students and leave the rest to them!
AMSP Girls’ Participation Coordinator and Employer Liaison & Careers Lead