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The Science Museum Group this week launched its Academy, a major initiative to tackle the skills shortage in STEM fields and ignite the curiosity of the next generation.

The Science Museum Group this week launched its Academy, a major initiative to tackle the skills shortage in the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) – which costs UK businesses around £1.5 billion a year – igniting the curiosity of the next generation and providing them with valuable life skills.

Science demonstrations with the Science Museum's Explainers. Image: Jody Kingzett
Lopa Patel and Andria Zafirakou at a science demonstration with the Science Museum’s Explainers. Image: Jody Kingzett

The Science Museum Group Academy will be the UK’s first dedicated centre of excellence for practitioners in the informal STEM sector. Based on 25 years of experience in delivering professional training and with dedicated classrooms in the Science Museum, London and the Science and Industry Museum, Manchester (from spring 2019), Academy courses will be available across the UK and internationally.

To support the announcement, Sam Gyimah MP, Minister of State for Universities, Science, Research and Innovation, recently talked of the importance of creating ‘the Rosalind Franklins, Alan Turings and Stephen Hawkings of the future’ and said the Academy ‘will equip teachers, museum staff and STEM professionals with further expertise to continue to inspire the next generation.’

Andria Zafirakou, 2018 Global Teacher Prize winner. Image: Jody Kingzett
Andria Zafirakou, 2018 Global Teacher Prize winner. Image: Jody Kingzett

Andria Zafirakou, 2018 Global Teacher Prize winner, shared her experience as a teacher at the launch event and said she was ‘really impressed’ with the quality of the resources from the Academy and added she’s already using one of them. ‘It is called Wreck your Tech,’ she says, relishing using it with her daughters. ‘Obviously, they won’t be using my phone,’ she joked, congratulating the museum group on the initiative.

An art and design teacher, Zafirakou sees the distinction to science as ‘irrelevant’. ‘Teaching is teaching’, she says, ‘and as teachers we all strive to answer the same questions. How do I get my students to love my subject? To want to learn beyond the classroom…and to take up my subject in their future studies and careers?’

The Academy is supported by Founding Partner BP, represented at the launch by Peter Mather, Group Regional President, Europe and Head of Country, UK, who said the museum is one of his favourite places on the planet, one that is thriving and internationally relevant: ‘We are delighted to be working with the Science Museum Group. As we make the transition to a lower carbon future, the STEM skills essential for our future sustainability are in scarce supply.’

Peter Mather, Group Regional President, Europe and Head of Country, UK at BP. Image: Jody Kingzett
Peter Mather, Group Regional President, Europe and Head of Country, UK at BP. Image: Jody Kingzett

He then added, ‘This matters to society because STEM skills are so important for helping young people to access rewarding careers, and it matters to BP because our operations in the UK support around 1 in every 226 jobs in the UK economy.’

He highlighted the role of STEM ‘in the future of this planet’ and said BP was concerned about meeting the ‘dual challenge’ of providing secure and affordable energy to bring people out of poverty and preserving ‘our wonderful planet’.

If we can enthuse young people about getting involved in the challenge, and to understand it too, ‘we will have done an awful lot.’

Dame Mary Archer, Ian Blatchford, Andria Zafirakou, Peter Mather and Susan Raikes. Image: Jody Kingzett

At the core of the Academy’s work is the concept of science capital – a measure of how people’s relationship with science can be deepened through formal and informal experiences, and builds on Enterprising Science – a five-year partnership between the Group, King’s College London, University College London and BP. Mr Mather said BP was ‘incredibly excited’ to be extending its work with the Science Museum Group.

Launching during the Year of Engineering, the Academy will help address an urgent need across the UK. The Gatsby Charitable Foundation estimates 700,000 additional STEM technicians will be needed to meet demand within a decade.

Susan Raikes, Director of Learning for the Group, said: ‘Helping more people find meaning and relevance in science is at the heart of the Science Museum Group’s mission to inspire futures. The Academy’s vital work – which is only possible thanks to BP’s support – is a critical part of this mission. Each STEM practitioner supported by the Academy will gain the tools to create incredible science engagement opportunities for a much wider audience.’

Science Museum Group Director of Learning, Susan Raikes. Image: Jody Kingzett
Science Museum Group Director of Learning, Susan Raikes. Image: Jody Kingzett

At the launch of the Academy were many leading figures: Gail Cardew, Royal Institution Professor of Science, Culture and Society, and Director of Science and Education; Dr Julie Maxton CBE is the Executive Director of the Royal Society; Katherine Mathieson, Chief Executive of the British Science Association; Dame Mary Archer, Chair, Science Museum Group; Group Trustees Sharon Flood, Lopa Patel, David Jacob, Iain McIntosh; and Donald Brydon, Chairman of the Science Museum Group Foundation.