A student at Kingsbury Green Academy in Calne has been officially recognised for honing her design and engineering skills through a virtual work placement project to construct a coronavirus vaccination research lab.
Every year global technical professional services company Jacobs invites students aged 14 to 17 across the UK who are interested in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) to undertake work experience in their offices, alongside their staff. Jacobs is committed to engaging and inspiring students by showing them the possibilities and opportunities associated with a career in STEM.
The coronavirus pandemic meant that this year’s face-to-face work experience programme could not go ahead, but the STEM ambassadors at Jacobs were determined to continue engaging with students and instead put together a virtual work experience programme that took students through the design of a coronavirus vaccine research facility.
Hannah Smith, 15, who is now in Year 11 at Kingsbury Green Academy, was alerted to the opportunity to do the virtual work experience by the school’s career leader, Catherine Young.
“I really enjoy science, maths and IT and am a logic-based person,” said Hannah, “so it looked really interesting. I applied and had to complete a survey to see if I was suitable, and was accepted. We were given all sorts of problems that would need to be solved in a real-life project. There was a wide variety of specialist tasks that I got involved in over the five weeks, from project management, health and safety, risk assessment to architecture, internal design of research facilities, and making mood boards.
“I learned a lot, from calculating the placement of beams and trusses to the mechanical engineering of water pipes within the building. I’m hoping to take A levels in maths, further maths, chemistry and IT eventually, so it was interesting to see how STEM subjects can be applied in real life.”
Hannah, who is due to sit her GCSEs in the summer of 2021, was given a certificate of completion of the virtual work placement by Jacobs. She is also due to receive a certificate from the Engineering Development Trust (EDT) as the programme was accredited to Industrial Cadets Silver level.
In a typical week the students had two video lectures with related activities on two areas of work, followed by a live session with a professional who works in the relevant area, where students could ask questions and discuss what they had experienced and achieved.
“We framed the programme around the students’ thoughts and ideas and were looking for imaginative and innovative approaches to problems, rather than coming up with a ‘correct’ answer,” said Bobby Dias, who co-developed the work experience programme at Jacobs.
“We truly believe in the power of an inclusive and diverse workforce at Jacobs and are really pleased that this year we were able to achieve almost a 50/50 split of girls to boys on the programme. Having a virtual programme meant that we also managed to reach students who might not ordinarily have been able to take part because they don’t live near to a Jacobs office.”
Catherine Young said the school was delighted at Hannah’s commitment to the programme, and that female students are very much encouraged to consider careers in STEM-based professions.
“Hannah did this work experience in her free time and showed a huge amount of self-motivation as well as a very mature understanding of the importance of developing her skills and gaining work experience,” said Mrs Young.
“She is a credit to the school and an inspiration to any student wondering whether science, technology, engineering or maths could be a career for them.”