Cisco invited children from 15 London schools to Cisco House at the Olympic Park for a TeenTech event to encourage students to consider a career in science, technology engineering and maths (STEM) subjects.
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TeenTech was set up to run events highlighting careers in technology. The event attracted 150 students from local schools, including Walthamstow Academy, Hackney University Technology College and Clapton School.
The event started with introductions from TeenTech founder and science broadcaster Maggie Philbin, who urged students to think about careers in technology they might have never considered.
Students took part in interactive workshops throughout the day, including activities in designing applications and promoting them through 45-second sales pitches.
Local companies at the event included Glass Eye, Pavegen, Sugru, BBC, BT and Atkins. In addition, The Welding Institute, The Canary Wharf Group, Thames Water, London Underground and Thomson Reuters shared engineers and scientists to deliver practical workshops for the students.
Ian Foddering, chief technology officer, Cisco UK and Ireland, said students were questioned before and after the event, with opinions of careers in technology changing throughout the day.
One student, Amara, from Hackney University Technical College said at the end of the day: “I want to be an entrepreneur. It would be cool to create an idea and be part of the whole business.”
Foddering said there are a lot of preconceived ideas around careers in technology: “This day was about discussing these preconceived views and explaining that jobs in technology are not always boring and low-paid. They are creative jobs and there are lots of opportunities to travel.”
“Interestingly, 61% of those that attended were female – at the end of the day these students had the view that a career in this industry could be rewarding,” added Foddering.
He said most young students believe they need to go to university to gain a decent career: “University is just one route, but there are others. Cisco has an apprenticeship scheme and other businesses should play a role here in finding and offering talented future leaders an opportunity within technology.”
Maggie Philbin, founder of TeenTech, said students were treated as adults: “They were being invited to share thoughts and ideas which has led to a massive surge in their confidence. They are beginning to recognise they could step into the roles demonstrated by exhibitors here today.
“The potential of these students is palpable and events such as TeenTech serve as a great reminder to companies – from Cisco to the start-ups present – that we all must make the strongest effort to harness this potential now.”