STEM ambassadors are at the core of IGS, sharing expertise with the next generation & developing crucial workplace skills
IGS is built on STEM – science, technology, engineering, and mathematics – subjects. Whether based in our Engineering Innovation Centre, Crop Research Centre, or another of our offices across Scotland or the US, our team has plenty to offer across all four disciplines.
We’re proud to employ several STEM ambassadors across IGS. As an employer, we recognise the strong benefits of an ambassadorship programme, be it giving team members the chance to improve their public speaking skills, or to build relationships with local schools and raise awareness of vertical farming, and the wide range of prospective careers available to school leavers with interest in STEM subjects.
But don’t just take it from us – we recently spoke to IGS’ Senior Mechanical Engineer, Cameron Williamson, and Test Team Leader, Jade Roe-Baynham, about their experiences so far as STEM ambassadors. Cameron and Jade are based at our Engineering Innovation Centre in Scotland, ensuring that our vertical farming technology remains at the cutting edge of our industry in order to help customers produce healthy and sustainable crops.
What being a STEM ambassador involves
There’s no set description for being a STEM ambassador. Given the range of ambassador backgrounds, they can be called upon for anything from a practical workshop with primary school children to a more in-depth talk to secondary school students. Such a broad range of responsibilities not only keeps things interesting, but allows ambassadors to build on their skills in multiple areas.
“Being a STEM ambassador has given me the opportunity to visit a lot of different schools (both state and private),” Jade begins.
“I’ve been lucky enough to speak to younger girls and open their eyes to what engineering entails. You can be quite methodical. I like to do hands-on workshops – this could be something practical like building a robot or hydrogen fuel cell car, or something totally different like a presentation on employability skills. I recently attended Balwearie High School in Fife, Scotland, with other colleagues from IGS. We ran a workshop on writing cover letters and preparing a CV for 4th and 5th years.”
Cameron’s experience to date has been less focused on practical sessions, on the other hand. “I’ve mainly done speaking roles so far,” he tells us.
“The first one was through Primary Engineer, and it was an online webinar streamed to schools across the country. I gave a 15-minute presentation on IGS and vertical farming as a concept. I try and use GIFs in my presentations to make them more interactive – I've even incorporated pictures from the game Minecraft to help relate to a younger audience!
“I’ve also presented at a school assembly. I initially found this quite daunting: it was for Maths Week Scotland and I spoke to two different assemblies – one for P1 to P4, and another for P5 to P7 – but I ended up having so much fun. I used a variety of props and images, and showed how we can use maths to calculate yield from a farm, zooming in on images to show context and demonstrating processes such as photosynthesis.”
Why become a STEM ambassador
“I’ve been a STEM ambassador for about ten years now,” Jade continues.
“I used to work for Fife College and, while studying petroleum engineering there, I took part in STEM roadshows as part of the course to help give kids an understanding of engineering. There aren’t a huge amount of female engineers, so I thought becoming an ambassador would be a good way to encourage younger girls to get into the industry.
“If I was to give any advice to anyone thinking about becoming an ambassador, it would be to just do it – it's so rewarding. This next generation is people’s sons and daughters – you’d like to think that somebody would take the time out of their day to pass on a little bit of knowledge about their experiences in the workplace, so I’m all for giving something back.”
Cameron has been part of the STEM careers programme for just over two years now, having got involved around the same time as COP26 was hosted in Glasgow.
“We were hosting a demonstration facility and conducting tours,” he tells us, “I’d previously given tours at our Crop Research Centre in Dundee, so I put myself forward to give a tour of the demonstration facility to a group of schoolchildren. I was scared at first, but the more I did it, the more I enjoyed it. The next day I spoke to the CEO of Primary Engineer, who recommended that I check out the STEM Ambassador programme. I signed up and have never looked back – it's a lot of fun.
“I also come from an area in Scotland where people don’t typically enter engineering as a profession – at school, I didn’t even know it was an option! There wasn’t a huge amount of exposure, so I think it’s vital that kids from all across the country get an insight into engineering. I was keen to get involved and do whatever I could to help ensure this.
“My advice to anyone thinking about getting involved would be that it’s relatively simple (and very rewarding) to make things interesting that aren’t typically deemed as such (subjects like maths, for instance). Take the time to make things engaging for your audience and you’ll get so much more back.”
How businesses can benefit from STEM ambassadors
“From my experience, I’d say that it’s a really good way for companies to get themselves – and their industry – recognised by a younger audience,” Jade tells IGS.
“This is particularly the case with vertical farming. By getting kids engaged at a young age, it helps to raise wider awareness of what we do, both to children and the wider community.”
Cameron agrees, adding: “There’s definitely a huge benefit to being able to take something technical and frame it in a way that children can relate.
“Companies can also benefit from ambassadors being able to build on public speaking skills by presenting content to large groups (in some cases, they might not be presenting to a particularly favourable audience!). This can pay dividends when speaking to customers, suppliers, and colleagues. I think that being able to reformulate what you are talking about and make it accessible is such a great skill to have.”
Become a STEM ambassador
Feeling inspired? You can get in touch with STEM Learning and apply to become a STEM ambassador via their website.
If you’re a primary or secondary education provider and would like an IGS STEM ambassador to give a talk at your school, get in touch. We’d love to help raise awareness of our industry to the next generation of talent.