More girls, from areas where third level education is uncommon, exploring an interest in technology has the potential to lead to more women gaining digital skills and earning technology qualifications, thus providing opportunities for participants to acquire job security, and meeting a demand for digital skills that is currently outpacing supply and is necessary for economic competitiveness. Resultantly, Teen-Turn goals are the following:
- To develop a local talent pool of digitally skilled young women;
- To promote technology careers and post-secondary school education to girls;
- To create equality of opportunity in target areas, particularly in the context of a digital society.
Managing to enroll and keep under-represented girls in learning digital skills is not easy. We need alternative delivery systems to formal education, with hands-on activities and enabling environments key contributors to success. Teen-Turn provides an immersive experience followed up with reinforcement and recurring skills training, and personal development along the "Junior Cert to Job" route.
Longitudinal studies in Australia and the US have demonstrated that hands-on experience can significantly affect the rate of individuals from disadvantaged communities progressing to third level education and secure career-jobs. SFI research into ‘fitting in', combined with Stanford reports on 'mindset' and recent evaluation of CAO data in the context of girls' performance on leaving cert subjects also informs Teen-Turn’s intervention. Teen-Turn works with several stakeholders, including companies and schools, as well as beneficiaries who include the participating girls and mentors. Teen-Turn gives partners and companies the opportunity to engage in strategic outreach that delivers social impact in neighboring communities, and provides a return in the form of a local talent pool from which to draw in the future. Further to this, Teen-Turn positions schools to foster relationships that demonstrate the value and benefits of higher education and build social capital within their communities. Thanks to collaboration with Teen-Turn, partners extend their network, companies expand their civic engagement, and schools increase out-of-hours services.
Again, Teen-Turn’s objective tackles the need for ICT professionals in Ireland, the deficit of women in technology careers and, while doing so, bridges the divide between the corporate and the community to encourage third level progression and digital skills learning in disadvantaged areas.
This objective is aligned with the Forfás Expert Group on Future Skills Needs, which has identified that Irish companies will have an estimated 44,500 job openings for people with high level ICT skills over the next six years. It addresses what the Central Statistics Office reports, in that 118,000 people in Ireland are working in jobs that use STEM skills, with the proportion of women less than 25% and just 6 to 7% in technology careers. In addition, it supports the National Plan for Equality of Access by contributing to boosting the number of students in third level from disadvantaged backgrounds where the rate is as low as 15%.
Lastly, Teen-Turn contributes to the Irish Action Plan for Education 2018 as a formally recognized outside of school initiative at Junior Cycle, aiming to deliver an increase in take up of students doing STEM for the Leaving Certificate and an increase in female participation. Founded in 2016, Teen-Turn’s programming is ongoing, with immediate and long-term goals for digital skills impact. The current annual budget is €25k. Further financial support would allow Teen-Turn’s offerings to continue to scale nationally and expand to other countries by defraying expenses and providing a runway to develop programming to generate future sponsorship.
Teen-Turn’s ‘hands-on experience’ intervention model for disadvantaged girls and the rationale behind it has proven successful, with measurable outcomes including leaving cert course choices, third level enrollment and job acquisition.
The following challenges have been identified:
- 6-7% of women in technology;
- 44,000 jobs in ICT in Ireland over the next 6 years that will be a challenge to fill;
- 5% third level course uptake rate in underrepresented communities
Teen-Turn can report:
- 80% of participants stated that they would now consider pursuing STEM studies as part of a career path, with Data Science and Engineering the most cited;
- 60% of participants have returned to a technology career environment for further work experience;
- 50% have taken up digital skills learning activities including those related to coding and engineering;
- 15% have participated in the BT Young Scientist competition for the first time;
- 100% of partner companies have committed to host again;
- 100% of partner schools have committed to continue participation; and two new rural areas, near Sligo and Athlone, will be joining the program in 2019.
What distinguishes Teen-Turn is its focus on underrepresented girls, long-term interactions that include work placement and after school programming over several years, and the creation of networks amongst mentors and mentees.
A year-round program, school officers nationwide actively recruit and place candidates whom they believe will benefit most from Teen-Tum programming. There is also a vibrant alumni network of teen girls in the final years of secondary school and starting third level.
Over 30 companies now host the summer work placements, while an additional 11 provide mentors for after school programs. In fact, Teen-Turn offers an average of one women-in-STEM mentor for every 2 participants, with established relationships with 150 company mentors as of 2018. Teen-Turn has created a network of women-in-STEM working at various stages in their careers who can share with one another approaches to mentorship, engage in dialogues about their industry as it is for women and as it should be, and communicate the importance of encouraging girls and each other to succeed. By empowering these women to show, first hand, what it is to work and flourish in technology
career environment to teenaged girls, they are positioned in leadership roles for the next generation to see and aspire to be. Teen-Turn’s long term financial sustainability and the initiative’s continuance will be ensured by leveraging these company and mentor relationships to achieve at least break-even across all activities by end of 2019. Plans are in place to diversify and grow our income streams, which already include funding awards from Social Innovation Fund Ireland, The Digital Hub and Science Foundation Ireland as well as considerable inkind contributions from Hays Recruitment. Ideally, by the of our three-year strategy, in 2020, Teen-Turn will have built financial reserves to levels that are in line with best practice.