I’ve reached that stage in my career where I want to start helping the next generation of ecology and environmental professionals to take that first step into the profession. So along with what I can do in my day job, for example with internships and work placements at CIEEM, I have now also become a STEM Ambassador.
I’ve been involved for some time with two other organisations – Teach the Future and UK Youth for Nature – both of which aim to engage young people with climate and nature, so becoming a STEM Ambassador fitted neatly with these.
Careers advice has come a long way since I graduated, when I was told after getting a BSc in Biological Sciences that I could become a teacher or an academic. That was it. But as a sector we still don’t effectively promote the broad spectrum of job possibilities that are available to young people or career changers who are looking to do something with nature and biodiversity. At CIEEM we have started to do more, but more on this later.
The other issue is that the ecology and environment sector on the whole is still woefully homogenous. We are generally a white, middle-class, degree-educated bunch, and one way to help change this is to get out and connect with kids from all backgrounds – whilst they are still young and thinking about what they might want to do as a career – and explain the options, possibilities, alternative routes, joy and satisfaction of working with nature. From 5-year-olds getting a kick out of learning that earthworms poop out compost to grow food, to teenagers with eco-anxiety wanting to know what they can do about climate change and nature loss, there are ways to engage all ages.
The Application Process
I was a bit daunted by the STEM Ambassador application process at first and had put it off a few times, but when I actually got around to doing it the process is actually quite straightforward and I should have done it sooner.
There’s a really useful online induction course that takes you through the process of becoming a STEM Ambassador, what to expect, and how you can contribute, and then also the prerequisite safeguarding assessment and DBS check.
For me, the whole process from application to being approved took three weeks – that’s no time at all really.
Since becoming a STEM Ambassador I’ve already had the opportunity to do one engagement event with this particular hat on. It was mock job interviews with 14–16-year-old school pupils. This obviously isn’t directly related to promoting careers in ecology and environmental management, but it was a useful first step for me in understanding some of the things that STEM Ambassadors do and how the STEM Learning Hub (where engagement opportunities are posted) works. But it also shows that you don’t have to have years and years of technical experience to be able to help young people – if you’ve just started your career you will have just gone through writing job applications and attending interviews and will have recent experience to share.
I’m now looking forward to the next opportunity – hopefully something more hands on around nature, ecology and the environment. And although I’m looking to do more, the requirement on STEM Ambassadors is not onerous, just one activity per year as a minimum.
Looking through the calls for activities, there is plenty of interest in climate and sustainability, so we have a lot of scope to engage there. The other topic I’ve seen repeatedly is space – so perhaps not so much for us, although I have seen some interesting articles published on the hypothetical ecological and botanical requirements for terraforming Mars…
There are two ways to engage with the STEM Learning Hub, one it to check the calls from schools and local youth groups for activities and volunteer to undertake the activity they are asking for, and the other is to proactively develop an activity that can be posted as an offer to schools and local youth groups.
At CIEEM, we’re building on the work that we’ve already started with our Green Jobs for Nature project. To complement this, we’re just starting a new STEM Ambassadors Working Group. We’re hoping that through this new group we can support members who are (or want to be) STEM Ambassadors but also develop tools and resources that can be used to offer activities to schools and local youth groups.
How Can You Get Involved?
I’d encourage anyone who wants to engage and help develop the next generation of ecologists and environmental managers to think about becoming a STEM Ambassador. And if you’re thinking about it then you probably already have knowledge and experience that you can share.
If you’re already a STEM Ambassador, make sure you add CIEEM as a professional body in your STEM Learning Hub profile and tick the box to allow STEM Learning to share your STEM Ambassador volunteer work and contact details with us. You can find this under: Profile > Skills and Qualifications > Professional Institute Membership.
Please do also consider joining the STEM Ambassador Working Group. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org for further details of the next meeting.
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