The Effectiveness of Using Young Professionals to Influence STEM Career Choices of Secondary School Students
There is a concern in many countries that secondary school student interest in careers in the STEM areas is declining. In response, a program has been developed in New Zealand for young professional technologists, engineers and scientists (known as ambassadors) to visit schools and carry out a variety of interventions to educate and encourage students to choose STEM careers. The interventions include careers talks and classroom activities, organized by regional facilitators who are employed by the Institution of Professional Engineers New Zealand (IPENZ) to co-ordinate the programme across New Zealand. The goal of this research was to ascertain whether ambassador interventions are influential on students’ attitudes to careers and curriculum choices in school. The objectives were 1) To investigate the impact of the interventions on students’ views and perceptions of STEM careers; and 2) To discover any specific factors that must also exist in a given context for an intervention to be effective. The main finding was that the ambassador interventions were influential on student career decision processes, though not all students were influenced. The facilitators work effectively in recruiting, training, organizing and supporting the ambassadors, and the ambassadors belief in the value of what they are doing helps ensure effective interventions. The research outcomes are presented as a range of recommendations.