We are all aware of the well-documented skill shortages in so-called STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) industries.
The local LoveTech charity was formed to inspire girls and young women to consider careers in these fields.
President Angela van den Berg explains why it is particularly important to involve girls.
She says: “The skills shortage is actually a global problem. If I focus on the UK including the Isle of Man, some 700,000 STEM jobs were not filled last year because the skills are not there. The UK economy is losing millions every year because people are not pursuing these careers so there is no one to apply for these jobs.
“And among those who pursue these careers, only 20% of them are women.
“It is therefore a question of remedying this imbalance. We encourage all young people to consider pursuing these careers for the benefit of the economy and the companies that operate in this field, but especially women. ‘
Angela is speaking at LoveTech’s sold-out event, the Half-Term Tech Fest, held at the Villa on Friday. Although the charity was created to focus on girls, it also wants to encourage boys to consider pursuing roles in STEM companies.
She says, “You can’t make meaningful change without men and boys.
“We’re in the same boat and while our charity aims to encourage young women to pursue careers in STEM, boys should encourage their sisters and fathers should encourage their daughters, so you need men to get involved.
So why don’t girls pursue these careers? Why don’t they take technical or scientific subjects in school, or don’t they do diplomas?
Angela says, “It’s the weirdest thing because there’s no definitive answer.
“Is there an unconscious bias in schools that girls are not good at math? Or that science is for boys? Or would you be stuck in a basement coding?
“So that’s the idea behind today, showing the kids on the island that it’s not as boring as they might think, or as inaccessible or as unappealing as they might think.
Ironically, despite its relatively remote location, the island offers a surprisingly high number of high-end, high-tech companies and the kind of jobs you might think would only be available in London or some other major city. The very nature of technology means that businesses can locate anywhere.
Angela says: “This is why what we do is so important because you need young women and young boys to understand what kinds of jobs are out there – there are all kinds of great jobs out there. . And this generation of children, they are much more socially aware: they worry about the environment, they worry a lot more that people get sick than the older generation.
“For them, if they can hold on, I can pursue a career in tech that is also socially conscious, maybe I should think about it instead of going for something more traditional.
“One of the companies here today, Memory Lane Games, makes computer games for people with dementia, so it’s absolutely fantastic. We also have Riela’s cybersecurity here because, let’s face it, the digital world is terrifying and pursuing a career where you can actually help people protect their data or protect their business is a truly noble cause as well.
Freya Livsey-Corlett, who is helped run the PDMS booth at the event, is the perfect ambassador for a career in tech.
Freya, with a BSc (Hons) in Computer Science from the University of Exeter and an MSc in Information Systems and Management from the University of Warwick, is the Analyst and Test Manager at PDMS, at the head of a team of 14 people.
She says, “I was brought up with technology. I was very lucky: my father was a computer scientist and when I was three I had an Omega Commodore. I have also been fortunate to have very, very good high school teachers and have been fortunate enough to work in IT since college. I worked as a tester, project manager and product manager.
“Then I came to PDMS. I have a team of 14 fabulous people under me here: they all have the passion and enthusiasm for the job too.
“We talk to the customer and understand their needs, and then we bring that work back to our development team and they create the solution.
“I then test that out, so I can be involved in both ends of the process, which is really exciting.”
LoveTech, and the tech industry in general, would love to have a lot more women like Freya, but Angela acknowledges that LoveTech is sewing seeds that may take a few years to come to fruition.
She says, “It’s not an overnight thing. What we need to do is actually change, or help change, the mindset: that’s what it is. It’s about awakening a love for STEM at a younger age, exposing children at a younger age, so they can start thinking about these things, and helping schools encourage them. children and that will be a long term thing.