The Big Bang diary: Top teamwork

Posted on 3 Feb 2012

Paul Jackson, CEO of EngineeringUK and The Big Bang Education CIC talks on target cracking and team work as the STEM extravaganza that is The Big BANG Fair becomes imminent.

As I write this, nearly 40,000 young people, teachers and parents have already registered to attend The Big Bang Fair on March 15–17. Meeting targets ahead of time usually means buying celebratory cake for my colleagues. But exceeding expectations has become a somewhat regular occurrence for The Big Bang, great news for science and engineering and less so for waistlines – and my wallet.

We’ve come a long way since we started up in 2008 and it’s exciting to see people’s interest and enthusiasm for science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) grow year on year.

Paul Jackson, EngineeringUK CEO
Paul Jackson, EngineeringUK CEO

The Big Bang Fair could not have gone from strength to strength so rapidly without the support of the wider science and engineering community, spanning leading UK businesses, Government, education and science and engineering institutions. The fair is a best case example of what can be achieved by taking a joined up approach and a long-term view.

There are many ways for organisations to get involved, whether it’s through sponsorship of one of our zones; Body Talk, Energise, Farm to Fork, Go Global, Making Trax and Next factor, or helping to provide an interactive experience for visitors. Our Expert Guide programme also means that companies can volunteer the expertise of their employees to help provide visitors with a richer and deeper understanding of the career opportunities available in STEM.

I know that many of The Big Bang’s supporters are looking for meaningful ways to engage with young people on a sustainable basis, and Expert Guides have the opportunity to make a longer-term commitment to complement existing CSR activities.

The Big Bang’s messages go far beyond the national event. The Big Bang Near Me events take place year-round across the UK, and our overarching communications work focuses on spreading the message far and wide that contemporarySTEM careers are cutting edge. The Big Bang Lesson Take II took place on January 19, for example and provided another shining example of stakeholder teamwork.

One of The Big Bang Fair’s supporters, Professor Brian Cox, teamed up with Jodrell Bank to give our competition winners, Morley Academy, the lesson of a lifetime. And All UK schools could join in via BBC Learning’s video stream on its website.

This year we are working with BAA and Jaguar Land Rover among others, to offer unique experience prizes for young people. The Big Bang Days Out initiative gives companies the opportunity to extend their involvement in promoting STEM careers to young people via The Big Bang programme. And the competition mechanism of The Big Bang Days Out means that we can engage with many more young people than the lucky few who win the prize.

EngineeringUK’s 2011 survey of public perceptions showed positive recall for The Big Bang Fair in 2011 in comparison to other STEMrelated events, so we know what we’re doing works.

“EngineeringUK’s 2011 survey of public perceptions showed positive recall for The Big Bang Fair in 2011 in comparison to other STEMrelated events, so we know what we’re doing works” – Paul Jackson, CEO, EngineeringUK

But we cannot afford to disregard the challenges ahead. Entrenched outdated perceptions about science and engineering mean that only 47% of STEM teachers think a career in engineering is desirable for students and 21% think STEM careers are undesirable (in comparison to 63% of STEM teachers who have visited The Big Bang Fair).

By the time today’s school pupils are entering the world of work, the engineering sector alone is going to need over 2.2 million employees so it’s crucial that those of us involved in the sector work together to make sure young people view science and engineering careers as interesting, varied, and well-paid – it’s time to show off about the UK’s home-grown science and engineering successes.