Today marks Ada Lovelace Day, the annual event that celebrates the achievements of women in science and tech.
Founded back in 2009, the day was inspired by Ada Lovelace who is considered the first person to ever write a computer program back in the 19th Century.
Whilst Ada Lovelace Day is about Ada, it’s also an opportunity to think about the women breaking ground in STEM now and who are inspiring us every single day.
This is no easy feat: just two weeks ago, a male physicist at the European Organisation for Nuclear Research (Cern) said that physics was “invented and built by men” and, therefore, not suitable for women.
He also said that women were only welcome in science if they proved themselves enough to win a Nobel Prize, despite not having won one himself. He has since been suspended.
It’s frankly unbelievable that we are still having this debate over whether there is enough room in science, or tech, or maths, or engineering, for women.
In honour of Ada Lovelace Day, let’s forget the detractors concentrate on just a handful of incredible women doing amazing things in science.
A member of the government’s apprenticeship delivery board says opportunities at level 2 and 3 are key.
Lower level apprenticeships have the potential to greatly boost productivity, according to the head of apprenticeships at Barclay’s.
The number of lower level apprenticeships has fallen markedly in recent years. In the four years to 2016/17, the number of intermediate apprenticeship starts (level 2) fell by 11 per cent, while advanced apprenticeship starts (level 3) fell by six per cent.
Meanwhile, the number of higher apprenticeship starts (level 4-7) increased by 269 per cent in the same period. The overall number of apprenticeship starts has fallen by four per cent – from 510,200 in 2012-13 to 491,300 in 2016-17.
Richard Hines – Principal Specialist inspector at the Health and Safety Executive (HSE)
A demanding job in a high-pressure environment, dealing with matters of life and death daily, you might think that I’m the product of a Russell Group university education with a list of Bachelors and Masters degrees to my name. But you’d be wrong.
Like most young people at 16, I finished school and was faced with the massive choice between staying on in education and going to university, entering the world of full-time work, or bridging the gap between the two by undertaking an apprenticeship.
I weighed up my options, mindful that whatever decision I took would determine my future career.
I looked at university pamphlets and attended open days but the courses just didn’t appeal to me.
I knew I wanted to get into electrical engineering as soon as possible, and get real life hands-on experience, when it hit me; I should do an apprenticeship. Twenty years later, I haven’t looked back since.
It is well-known that women are under-represented in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) sectors in the UK.
Only 24 percent of women work in core STEM industries and there are concerns that the skills gap is widening.
What can be done to fix these problems?
Recently, the UK government has been increasing its focus on apprenticeships. This is when a full-time job is combined with training in essential skills and recognisable qualifications. In 2017, 114,400 young people started apprenticeships in England, in sectors such as health, engineering, and business.
Getting young women into STEM apprenticeships
According to Anne Milton, the minister for skills and apprenticeships, barriers need to be broken down in order to encourage girls to pursue science-based subjects.
A new UK project aims to offer a practical demonstration of how artificial intelligence can simplify and speed up the creation of digital learning content for manufacturing and engineering apprentices.
Ufi Charitable Trust has announced the next phase of its £1m investment in projects that use digital technology to improve how vocational learning is delivered in the manufacturing sector.
It has awarded £100,000 for project led by Youthforce, a provider of STEM apprenticeship training, which aims to deliver online training to apprentices in the workplace, using Artificial Intelligence (AI) to create, curate and consolidate learning content.
Ufi Charitable Trust, a grant-funding body which supports the delivery of adult vocational skills through digital technology, is excited to announce £100,000 of funding for a vocational training project led by Youthforce, provider of STEM apprenticeship training. The investment is part of Ufi’s Manufacturing Skills Fund which will invest £1m in projects that use digital technology to improve how vocational learning is delivered in the manufacturing sector.
You could be forgiven for not having heard of postgraduate degree apprenticeships, also known as level 7 apprenticeships, which were launched in March 2015 with just 30 learners. But these master’s-level programmes have big potential.
The Department for Education says it expects uptake to increase when the apprenticeship levy comes into force in May. And while only a few apprenticeships are available, such as in systems engineering or digital technology solutions, there are plenty more in the works, including teaching.
With level 7 apprenticeships, students will have an undergraduate degree or equivalent, and be expected to be working for their sponsor company.
There’s a lot of talk about apprenticeships at the moment, including the dreaded apprenticeship levy.
I can imagine some schools are furious that they are going to have to pay for something that right now has no meaning to them.
I believe in the apprentice programme. My school has a strong track record in supporting apprentices.
We currently employ 13 apprentices across the school, specialising in skills such as sports tuition, business administration, finance, nursery education and specialist education.
Apprentices spend one day a week at our local college to gain a qualification in their specialist area. After two years they can seek employment or higher education.
The Skills Funding Agency has launched a new “mystery shopper” scheme to find out how prepared providers are for the new apprenticeship reforms.
The announcement was made in the online SFA Update just uploaded onto gov.uk.
It said: “To help us understand how prepared providers are for the new apprenticeship reforms, we are carrying out a ‘mystery shopper’ exercise to test aspects of apprenticeship readiness. This will enable us to identify any further support the sector may need to be ready to meet employer demand for apprenticeships.
“Please contact your provider manager if you have any queries.”
Major apprenticeship reforms are due to come into force following next week’s launch of the new apprenticeship levy, and employers are being given far more influence over the design of apprenticeship programmes and funding for them.
The government will be keen to see how prepared providers are for the changes.
Budget must deliver investment that schools ‘desperately need’, say heads and governors
Headteachers and governors have warned of the “impossible choices” they are being forced to make because of the school funding crisis.
In an open letter to the chancellor of the exchequer Philip Hammond ahead of his budget speech on March 8, the NAHT headteachers’ union and the National Governors’ Association call for the amount of funding per pupil to be protected.
They say school budgets are under “serious pressure” as a result of increases in costs and, while schools are doing their best to “make do”, there are “only so many financial efficiencies a school can find before reaching breaking point”.
The organisations highlight seven key areas of concern: ensuring sufficient funding, the impact of the apprenticeship levy on maintained schools, the cut to the education services grant, shortfalls in high needs funding, sufficient funding for sixth forms, funding for early years including protecting nursery schools, and automatic registration for pupil premium pupils.