31 May, the conference STEM Education for Innovation, Round Table for STEM was held for the first time - partnership initiative of individuals and institutions who are interested in the development and popularization of technical sciences, and cooperation of the world universities with science and the technology business. Discussions about the possibilities of exploiting the potential of young people, especially women, have proven that it is necessary to find common solutions.
There is too little interest of young people in science and technical directions. There are still more places at technology universities than candidates. - The number of women students in the strictly technical fields is not optimistic - there are in fact to 20%, while on informatics - only 13%. There is no doubt that this situation must change if Poland is to move up in terms of innovation in the EU ranking. And it can guarantee more graduates of technology and information technology, said Dr. Bianka Siwińska of the Education Foundation Perspektywy.
What actions should be taken to get them interested in science? What incentive programs should be implemented? Why should business support technology universities? What can universities give in return? To answer these and other questions at a Roundtable, rectors of the best Polish technical universities and the heads of the 15 largest technology companies, as well as representatives of media and non-governmental organizations, sat together.
Panelists agreed that in order to encourage young people to study at technical universities, they need to inspire and activate interest in this area, especially with women. It is important that already at secondary schools or high schools to take action in this field and stop dividing the roles of girls and boys through stereotypes and matching them to the directions of study in the university and perpetuating the myth that women cope very well, but mostly in the humanities professions.
Inspiring women, showing that technological trends are combining passion and science, can bring tangible results. One of the solutions that can contribute to an increase in the number of technology universities is to create initiatives such as Start4Stars program - affiliate internships for students of technology universities in the best high-tech companies or other scholarship programs for young talents. However, this type of project is still not enough, therefore both technology companies and universities should be involved in their creation.
According to representatives of universities, the problem lies not only in a small number of people interested in science directions. In their view, schools do not educate students in mathematics and physics at a sufficient level. As a result, after the first year of study they eliminate many students. Technological universities do not have sufficient funds for research. This makes that often high school graduates choose to study abroad, and university graduates decide to work outside the country. Companies should, therefore, engage in more support for research projects. This would also be an opportunity for the creation of new research centers or to strengthen existing ones.
The fact that Poland suffers from a shortage of engineers and specialists related to new technologies, makes it difficult for companies to obtain real talent in the market. Moreover, in their opinion, the current education system is not adapted to the requirements of the employer. As a result, a newly employed person needs up to half a year to fully implement the requirements of the company.
The meeting of the world universities and business during the Round Table demonstrated the importance of continuous cooperation between companies and universities of technology to change the current situation. Only by jointly undertaking actions can they change the attitudes of young people, and also offer a progressive solution to the problems, which were discussed at the Round Table. Gathering opinions and ideas is a first step towards this.