Guest piece by Jane Winter, Professional Development Leader, CIEC

What does the word ‘industry’ make you think of? Many children, parents and teachers have negative views of industry and use words such as ‘pollution’ and ‘dangerous’ to describe it. Children draw pictures of large buildings and chimneys pouring out clouds of smoke when asked to draw their image of industry (or places where many things are made).  They sometimes believe that work in industry is low-skilled and poorly paid and are unaware of the career opportunities that it can offer.

What does Most stock photographs of 'industry' conjure up images of large chimneys streaming smoke

CIEC has been addressing this issue for over twenty years with the ‘Children Challenging Industry programme’ (CCI).  Here, we work with people from science based manufacturing industries to support them to work with primary-aged children, including sending STEM ambassadors into schools and hosting site visits where whole classes of primary school children see for themselves what goes on in this type of industry.

If you’re a teacher, you and your students can work with one of our advisory teachers, prior to the visit, on practical problem-solving investigations that have been designed to make concrete links between the science in the National Curriculum and the processes that they see taking place on their industry visit.

If you cannot organise a visit, you can also download resources to use in the classroom from the CIEC website. Many of these activities could count towards a CREST Star or SuperStar Award.

Ongoing research shows that CCI has an immediate impact on children’s understanding of the importance of industry to their lives, as they realise it makes things that they use, such as medicine, shampoo and car parts. Moreover, CCI has a longer-term impact on children’s aspirations and choices.  For example, we recently received the following email from a teacher who has been involved with CCI for several years.

“Several pupils said the visit influenced them in their GCSE choices and made them think more closely about future careers. What struck me the most was the comments from many of the girls about their career paths. They said after visiting JM they decided they wanted to follow a path into science or engineering.”

Children do not always realise that industry makes things that they use, such as medicine & shampoo 

In an ideal world there would be no need for organisations like CIEC. There would be a widespread understanding throughout society that both science and industry are relevant to children’s current lives and provide future opportunities for a wide range of interesting and well-paid careers. 

In the meantime, we can all make a huge difference in working towards this goal. We should avoid portraying negative stereotypes to young people and instead, help them understand that industry can be a source of high quality STEM-based employment, whether this be through CCI or other means.

For more information about the work of CIEC contact [email protected]