Getting students excited by STEM
Rebecca Taylor-Cottle reckons she has one of the best jobs in the world.
As the head of communications and the diversity and inclusion lead at CA Technologies she works with thousands of students across Europe to get them excited about STEM careers.
She believes passionately that with the right information and conviction, anyone can be a digital champion. Here's what she told me.
Q1: Tell me about your background and what you do at CA?
A1: I’m part of an EMEA team that manages internal and external communications and corporate social responsibility (CSR). We run Create Tomorrow, a programme designed to educate and inspire young people - and especially girls - to consider STEM careers.
Since its launch in 2015, Create Tomorrow has reached over 23,000 students across Europe; around half of these in the UK.It was featured as an industry best practice by Sirius Decisions in 2017 and shortlisted for the eSkills Initiative of the Year at the 2016 Women in IT Awards. Prior to CA, I spent more than 10 years at PR and marketing agencies.
Q2: Do you feel most people in the organisation understand the term ‘digital skills’?
A2: CA is a software company, so the term is well understood, but the success of Create Tomorrow relies on employees also understanding the digital skills gap, and our role in closing it.
As part of the launch of Create Tomorrow, my team has been accountable for educating the EMEA employees on the current state of affairs and galvanising them to support the programme, so we can drive meaningful change.
Q3: How did get everyone on board with your idea and how did you deal with any internal conflicts?
A3: When launching Create Tomorrow in 2015, we drafted a clear business case for the programme. As well as setting out the impact we hoped to make externally, we also highlighted the opportunities to partner with customers and build on our brand reputation.
We started by getting the support of key stakeholders. Once we had leadership support, we launched the programme internally, taking a campaign approach to share the message with as many people as possible, through a variety of channels. We also had many one-on-one conversations at a local level, with those who had a vested interest in previous programmes, to ensure they understood our strategy.
All CA employees receive five paid days a year to volunteer, and staff are still free to use those for projects other than Create Tomorrow if they wish. We hope, though, that most employees will spend at least some of their volunteering time working with us.
Q4: What sort of impact are you hoping to make with your programme?
A4: Create Tomorrow is designed to educate young people about the opportunities that exist in STEM, and inspire them to continue studying STEM subjects, with a view to eventually choosing a STEM career. We are also keen to introduce students to role models, especially women and ethnic minorities who are currently under-represented in STEM.
Q5: What advice would you offer anyone wanting to start a similar programme?
A5: Start small, and build slowly. In the first year of Create Tomorrow, the UK programme reached 1,200 students. Three years later, and we've reached over 11,500 in the last six months. And build relationships – we've cultivated relationships with so many people, internally and externally, without whom the programme could not have been such a success. Want to nominate a future skills champion? Email firstname.lastname@example.org