Why being a STEM Ambassador is important to me

10 Jun 2020

Emily Bonner is part of the Structural Engineering team at The Concrete Centre. As well as developing new resources to assist structural engineers designing with concrete, Emily is also a STEM ambassador. In this blog Emily talks about what being a STEM ambassador means to her.

I have a rich background in studying, and working within, a STEM environment. I am proud to be a STEM Ambassador and I think this is one of the most valuable aspects of my career.

STEM Ambassadors are volunteers from the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) who take part in a range of activities to inspire the next generation to pursue careers in STEM.

Becoming one is not only a great way to share your experiences but is also a vital part of ensuring we continue to build the diverse workforce that is needed to face many of the major global challenges.

My first STEM Ambassador activities were part of my university’s outreach programme and included making water bottle rockets and building newspaper bridges with primary school students. The activities were great fun and it was brilliant to see children so engaged and enthusiastic about STEM subjects. I also found as I started my engineering career, that many friends and family didn’t really understand what engineers do, despite our reliance on engineering for so much of our day to day life.

For these reasons, I knew I wanted to continue as a STEM Ambassador, where I would have the opportunity to engage with young people and share my experiences as an engineer. I started work as a structural engineer after graduating in 2012 and since then I have been involved in a wide range of events. These include careers fairs, mock university interviews and the Big Bang Fair, the UK’s largest STEM event for young people. Through these events, I have spoken with children and young people at all stages of their education, from 6 year olds who have decided their A level subjects to 17 year olds who aren’t sure what path to take.

A lot of preconceptions exist around engineering careers, from entry requirements to work environments, and it is so important to have a diverse range of Ambassadors to demonstrate the breadth of opportunities available. This is especially important as we face possible skills shortages and we aim to build a more diverse and inclusive workforce. As engineers we also have an important role to play in overcoming many of the challenges our society faces, from global warming to population growth, and we need a new generation of enthusiastic engineers to achieve this. 

For me, it is hugely rewarding to be part of inspiring young people to pursue STEM careers and to share my knowledge and experience so that people better understand the role of engineers. I also find it helps me reflect on what I’ve learnt and achieved and where my career might go, something that we often don’t have time for when busy working. It is also a great opportunity to network and through the events I have volunteered at, I have met Ambassadors from a wide range of backgrounds, from aerospace to food technology, so I have certainly learnt a lot!

I would urge anyone in a STEM career to consider becoming a STEM Ambassador, there are events throughout the UK and at different times, to suit availability and the minimum commitment is one event per year.

For more information on resources, training and becoming a STEM Ambassador, visit the website: www.stem.org.uk/stem-ambassadors

Written by Emily Bonner, structural engineer, The Concrete Centre