STEM is an acronym for four subject areas or specific disciplines, namely, Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics, that adopts an applied approach to equip students with the necessary skills for careers in these areas (Myhill, 2020). STEM, or STEAM subjects, with the inclusion of Art as the fifth discipline, is particularly important when seeking to raise the aspirations of girls and to encourage them to apply for careers in this field.
In this article, I will show how one faculty in my school has successfully embedded careers in the STEAM subject curriculum by offering a range of opportunities for young people who are studying art, design and technology subjects.
The Art, Design and Technology (ADT) Faculty at Central Foundation Girls’ School (CFGS) ensures the curriculum includes clear signposting to allow teachers to provide examples of how careers link with what students are studying. This is achieved by careful curriculum planning, including activities such as:
- Using a career aspirations page at the back of students’ books
- Careers displays
- Displaying students’ work at exhibitions
- Through external input from trips
1. Project work
In Year 7, design and technology students learn about a range of STEAM topics through project work. This allows students to gain foundational knowledge of careers as well as allowing them to develop design and technology skills. The ADT Faculty is fully aware of the benefits of embedding careers in the curriculum and linking the different STEAM subjects to careers.
Students successfully learn about careers during ADT curriculum lessons, where teachers signpost careers and provide students with examples of career progression routes. Teachers use the careers aspirations page, located at the back of students’ books, as a physical reminder about careers in the creative industries, along with salaries and unusual job titles which students may not have considered viable careers options.
2. Careers-related trips and visits
Careers-related trips allow students to see how the subjects they are studying come alive as they make links with the world of work. The Head of Faculty is relentless in providing students with opportunities to participate in trips and visits, ranging from borough-wide events to visiting local galleries. These include the Whitechapel Gallery and Bow Arts. These opportunities have all been possible due to the ADT Faculty working closely with the Princes’ Foundation.
The ADT Faculty recognises the importance of allowing students to learn from employees as well as university lecturers and professors. Year 12 A level Art students attended a local university where they were able to talk with lecturers and professors, and learn from undergraduate students to help them make informed decisions about their future career options.
When asked about the effectiveness of the lectures in helping students gain a better understanding of the world of work, the Design Technology teacher who escorted the students felt it was extremely invaluable, particularly as they were pitched correctly for the different students. Students had the opportunity to ask questions and participate in a series of group discussions. The teacher was particularly impressed with the way in which the presenters made effective links between their roles, career journeys and the STEAM curriculum. This enabled them to bring the subject alive for the young people.
3. Virtual events
In addition to the numerous face-to-face events offered to students, the ADT Faculty made a smooth transition to online events, particularly during COVID-19 lockdowns, where students participated in, for example, the online East Careers Week. This meant that GCSE and A level Art students were able to engage in learning about careers despite the challenges associated with lockdowns. Moreover, the ADT Faculty works closely with the Head of Year 9 and the Assistant Headteacher to provide relevant information about STEAM subjects offered as part of the GCSE options process, along with details of careers within the creative industries. This includes online resources that help students make informed decisions when choosing their GCSEs, providing them with real life STEAM examples that help to increase their aspirations.
4. Careers workshops
The ADT Faculty works closely with the Tower Hamlets Artist Teacher Network to provide students with opportunities to learn about careers by professional artists, including enabling students to develop an understanding of career progression.
In February 2022, sixteen GCSE and A level Art and Design Technology students attended a face-to-face careers workshop that allowed them to gain insights into the world of work in the creative industries. Students, and the member of staff escorting them, provided feedback about their experience. From their responses, the workshop successfully helped students make links between what they are studying at school with careers in the STEAM field. Students shared that they enjoyed listening to the lectures and gaining insights into employees’ careers experiences. They also stated that they found it useful to learn about the world of work from the perspective of employees. Moreover, students felt that the ADT careers workshop was worthwhile not only in giving them insights into the world of work, but it also gave them the impetus to explore careers that are linked to art and design technology. Furthermore, students were inspired to look at ways they could develop those skills that employers are looking for in the creative industries.
What is evident about the way in which the ADT Faculty have successfully embedded careers in the curriculum is that they have sought to ensure that careers is an ongoing part of the ADT education programme. This is possible due to the collaborative partnerships that the Head of Faculty has developed over the years and is keen to maintain. Quite often STEAM events are a one-off and allow students to spend the day away from the classroom, mostly having fun and not necessarily making connections with what they are learning. However, multiple activities embedded in the curriculum throughout the year are extremely effective in helping students see careers in action, raise their aspirations and challenge stereotypical thinking. Students saw women in roles that they could aspire to; and, to learn about careers through their own personal career journey and experiences.
Myhill, R. (2020) What is STEM Education? Importance of STEM Education for Young Minds, Blog: Accessed 8th March 2022 https://www.liysf.org.uk/blog/what-is-stem-education#:~:text=STEM%20Education%2C%20at%20its%20core,(collectively%20shortened%20as%20STEM)
During her 19 years in the teaching profession, Claudette has held a range of roles including Head of Faculty, Head of House and Assistant Headteacher. She now works as a careers leader and is passionate about providing students with amazing careers-related opportunities.