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24,000 students looking forward to Smart Futures thanks to Futurewize schools programme

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The classroom based Futurewize and Smart Futures initiatives have reached nearly 24,000 students nationwide over the last three years. The initiatives are aimed at inspiring second level students to explore a new world of career possibilities that are opened up through the study of STEM related subjects (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) and are run in partnership with Science Foundation Ireland (SFI).

1st years Blakestown Community School Dublin 15Designed by JAI and developed for delivery by business volunteers, the five week Futurewize programme has been facilitated by more than 350 trained volunteers from STEM-related roles. Futurewize has a 65% female participation levels as a key focus is bridging the existing gender gap in girls pursuing further education and careers in STEM related fields. Research on the ‘role model effect’ has indicated the strong influence that a positive role model, particularly for girls, can play in changing perceptions and dispelling gender-stereotypes in STEM careers.

Having trained role models from industry working with 13-14 year olds in their own classrooms, Futurewize aims to show Junior Cycle students the importance and relevance of STEM related subjects. These role models from industry share their own real-life experiences as they work through the Futurewize modules.      

5A longitudinal study of the impact of Futurewize undertaken by the Science Education Evaluation Research Group in Dublin City University show that students do connect role models with interest in or motivation for doing a subject.

Futurewize Ambassador Dr Aoibhinn Ní Shúilleabháin, Assistant Professor in the UCD School of Mathematics & Statistics, said:  “I have seen first-hand how the Futurewize programme is a wonderful opportunity for students to learn more about STEM subjects in a fun, interactive way and also be inspired by positive role models from industry who can provide them with an insight into what it is like to work in STEM related organisations. I am particularly passionate about addressing the gender gap in students studying STEM subjects and with 65% female participants Futurewize is at the forefront of tackling this issue.”

Futurewize is aligned with the strands of the Junior Cycle science curriculum, and the physical, biological, and chemical worlds; and Earth and Space complement government policy including the aims of the Action Plan for Education 2016-2019 and the National Skills Strategy 2025.

Nandhini Sabesan St. Aidans Comprehensive School CooteHill CavanThe Smart Futures initiative targets both junior and senior cycle students during a once off workshop. 500 STEM volunteers have spoken about their careers and equipped students with sources of additional information to further their interest in STEM related careers through Smart Futures, often as an accompaniment to the Futurewize programme.

Ann Butler, Director of Development at JAI, underlined the relevance of volunteers from industry: “A volunteer from the ‘real world’ has significant educational impact in helping students to see the relevance of their studies and their post-school choices. Entrepreneurship education programmes such as Futurewize and Smart Futures, which are delivered by role models from industry and business complement the work of our teachers by providing opportunities for skills development as well as introducing students to a range of career possibilities.”

DSCF8843Commenting on its support for the Futurewize programme, Dr Ruth Freeman, Director of Science for Society in SFI, said: “Science Foundation Ireland is delighted to support Junior Achievement Ireland in running Futurewize, a fantastic initiative funded by the SFI Discover Programme. Joining forces with Smart Futures, Futurewize demonstrates the diverse STEM career opportunities available to students in Ireland by creating a space in which they can interact with superb role models. Encouraging these meaningful interactions empowers and inspires young people to start thinking about their future study and career paths, allowing them to learn of real life workplace experiences and to kickstart their journeys towards becoming the innovators of the future.”

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EPA Volunteers Inspiring Students to be Environmentally Aware

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More than 500 primary school students nationwide had the opportunity to learn about climate change during Science Week thanks to volunteers from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).  

17 EPA volunteers guided students through interactive climate change workshops over the course of Science Week. These workshops were developed by JAI, with assistance from the EPA’s staff members.

Aisling Ryan in Scoil Naomh Colmcille in Westport 4In their work with the volunteers, students learned fun facts about the science of global warming and climate change and its implications in Ireland and across the world. The students went on to participate in hands-on activities which included creating a tornado in a jar and building a weather vane.

The students also heard findings from the latest climate change research which shows that Ireland’s climate is changing in line with global patterns. The clearest trend is evident in the temperature records which show a mean temperature increase of 0.7oC between 1890 and 2008. Another indicator is that six of the ten warmest years in Ireland have occurred since 1990.

Participating schools were Gaelscoil Uí Riordáin, Scoil Barra and Sunday's Well Boys National School in Cork; Harold’s Cross National School in Dublin 6; Scoil Naomh Colmcille, Louisburgh National School, Ballyheane National School and Ballyvary National School in Mayo; Rackwallace National School in Monaghan and Wexford Educate Together National School, Clongeen National School, and CBS Primary School in Wexford.

The EPA environmental workshop is just one of many opportunities afforded to students thanks to the EPA’s support of JAI since 2016. In that time 134 volunteers have reached more than 3,200 young people through JA programmes designed to encourage young people to remain in education and help them to develop the skills they need to succeed in a changing world.

EPA volunteer Stephen McCarthy in Sundays Well BNS Cork 1Óisín Mac Muiris, Teacher in Gaelscoil Uí Riordáin, Ballincollig, Co. Cork, commented on his students’ experience: “Our students thoroughly enjoyed the EPA environmental workshop as it really brought the topic of climate change to life in a fun and accessible way. Our EPA volunteers were also great role models from industry who spoke about the connection between the world of work and what the students are learning at school.”

Leo McKittrick, EPA said: “Developing an interest and understanding of environmental issues can start with changing behaviours and attitudes at primary school level, these workshops are an inventive way of engaging with this issue. The EPA is delighted to partner with Junior Achievement Ireland to integrate environmental awareness into fun and accessible workshops which complement the work our volunteers already do through JA programmes in schools around the country.”

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CBS Primary School Wexford during EPA workshop with Aoife Stafford

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New TESA accreditation awarded to leading schools committed to entrepreneurship education

JAI’s inaugural TESA Summit celebrates entrepreneurial schools

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94 primary and second level schools from around the country were celebrated at the inaugural The Entrepreneurial School Awards (TESA) Summit hosted by Microsoft.

The TESA Summit, ably led by Master of Ceremonies Dr. Aoibhinn Ní Shúilleabháin, was an ideal opportunity to celebrate the work of educators across Ireland in developing entrepreneurial skills in students and to share best practice in a unique and inspiring venue. Entrepreneurship education covers all activities that seek to give individuals the skills, knowledge and attitudes required to achieve the goals they set for themselves to live a fulfilled life.

SON2442 0091A range of specially-commissioned masterclasses were arranged for TESA-certified schools to attend. They included Microsoft’s Educational Transformation workshop, a Design Thinking Sprint led by Professor Jonathan Levie and his team from NUI Galway and a Microsoft workshop on Ed Tech for 21st Century Educators. 

Gort Community School in Co. Galway was announced as the overall winner, the Galway second level school being recognised for its outstanding commitment to entrepreneurship education at the TESA Summit hosted by Microsoft.

As winners of the ‘TESA School of the Year – Microsoft Award’, Gort Community School will receive a prize to the value of €5,000, to further support its work in entrepreneurship education. Nominees of the school will travel to Helsinki to represent Ireland at the Entrepreneurial Schools European conference. The other category award winners, based on enrolment size, were: primary schools Darley National School, Cavan; Our Lady of Consolation School, Dublin 5, and St. Ursula’s Primary School, Waterford. Mercy College Sligo was awarded the top prize for its size among second level schools.

SON2442 0114JAI chief executive Helen Raftery commented on this first awards ceremony saying, “TESA gives schools the opportunity to benchmark themselves against standards of excellence. For our part, it formally recognises the work being done by primary and second level schools across the country in nurturing entrepreneurial skills in students, helping them develop the essential skills, knowledge and attitudes those young people will need to achieve the goals they set for themselves. TESA is also a welcome opportunity to celebrate the incredible work of our partner schools.

Delivering the keynote at the TESA summit, Professor Cooney, Professor in Entrepreneurship at Technological University Dublin and convenor of the TESA evaluation panel said: “Entrepreneurship education affords many benefits to young people on an individual and team level. Students acquire life-skills such as identifying and evaluating opportunities, using available resources to develop an idea, joining or building a team of people with different abilities, staying positive when faced with challenges, applying creative thinking to solving problems and learning from failure as well as success.

SON2442 0157Gort Community College was selected as the overall winner due to the importance of entrepreneurship education within the school - most student and teachers participate, resources are provided for it and it is deeply rooted in the school’s plan. I congratulate all the schools here today and look forward to supporting their efforts to continue promoting the importance of entrepreneurship education.

TESA was launched by JAI in January of this year with a call for submission of applications from JAI partner schools across Ireland in February. The schools were self-assessed against TESA criteria and completed a submission with the aim to establish themselves as an entrepreneurial school.

Each school that matched the criteria has been publicly recognised for its work in entrepreneurship education and all TESA-certified schools participated in this annual summit enabling educators and innovators to exchange best practice.

Joanne Morrissey, HR Director at Microsoft Ireland, said: “We’re delighted to host the inaugural TESA Summit at One Microsoft Place. The summit provides an important opportunity to recognise the innovative approaches taken by many schools as they look to empower their students to succeed in our digital world. Our ambition at Microsoft Ireland is to empower tomorrow’s leaders to achieve more through the power of technology. Through our digital skills programme, DreamSpace, we have committed to providing 100,000 young people with bespoke digital experiences at our innovation and education hub at our new campus whilst our Education Suite offers a space for teachers to evolve their skillset for the future of education. All of these efforts will help ensure our students leave school ready for the jobs of tomorrow.”

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Land Rover 4x4 in Schools Challenge 2019/20

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Galway Students Represent Ireland with Distinction in European Entrepreneurial Competition

Save the Seas

‘SavetheSeas’, a student company from Coláiste Cholmcille, Indreabhán, represented Ireland with distinction at the Junior Achievement (JA) Europe Company of the Year Competition 2019 in Lille, France from 4 – 6 July.

‘SavetheSeas’ was founded by Stephen Connolly, Feidhlim Folan and Eanna Curran as an online retail business which raises money for charities which work to remove plastics from the ocean. As winners of the Údarás na Gaeltachta Clár na gComhlachtaí in March this year, ‘SavetheSeas’ had the honour of representing Ireland in the prestigious pan-European stage of the competition.

SavetheSeas 2The JA Europe Company of the Year Competition in Lille featured 200+ young entrepreneurs who had qualified at a national-level and were competing for the title of JA Europe Company of the Year. A high-level panel of 10 judges interviewed the contestants and evaluated their approach to communication, teamwork, problem-solving, objective-setting, planning and review, administration and financial systems, personnel management, product development, customer focus, marketing and sales, as well as financial results. Participants also showcased their product or service at an exhibitors stand.

Last year, more than 345,000 students took part in the JA Company Programme across 40 countries. Since its launch in 1919, the JA Company Programme offers students aged 15-18 the opportunity to learn how to move a business idea from concept to reality. Throughout the school year, students produced a product or developed a service, creating their own company and managing their business from start to finish. The overall winner of the JA Company Programme 2019 was Entella Company from Turkey whose product collected waste in the sea.

SavetheSeas 3On their return to Ireland ‘SavetheSeas’ said: “Representing Ireland at the JA Europe Company of the Year Competition was amazing and a huge learning curve. We have gone from being 3 ordinary teenagers in Connemara with an interest in technology and ocean and marine welfare to representing our school at national and European level.

During this experience we have interacted with experts in entrepreneurship in local companies and universities to being judged by a jury of international business leaders. We have developed a multitude of skills throughout this project and are very grateful to Údarás na Gaeltachta and Junior Achievement Ireland for this opportunity, which has further inspired and motivated us to continue with our company ‘SavetheSeas’."

Earlier in the school year ‘SavetheSeas’ had competed against more than 750 Transition Year students in seven Gaeltacht regions in Cork, Galway, Donegal, Kerry, Mayo, Meath & Waterford during the Údarás na Gaeltachta Clár na gComhlachtaí which is run in partnership with Junior Achievement Ireland (JAI).

SavetheSeas 5SavetheSeas was mentored by their business studies teacher Máirín Ní Mhainnín and local business volunteer Kathleen McDonagh from GoWest. The students also received workshops on entrepreneurship from John Breslin and Jonathan Levie of the National University of Galway (NUIG).

JAI is a part of JA Europe, the largest non-profit in Europe dedicated to preparing young people for employment and entrepreneurship. This is the first time that winners of the Údarás na Gaeltachta Clár na gComhlachtaí had the opportunity to take part at the European level of the competition.

This year’s JA Europe Company of the Year Competition was combined with the worldwide centennial celebration of Junior Achievement and the 30th anniversary of the JA Company of the Year Competition.

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