Wednesday, 30 October 2013

Is money deciding the future careers of our pupils? – A biology week experience.

The second annual Biology week established by the society of biology took place last week from the 13th – 19th of October 2013. There were lots of exciting events happening across the nation. My favourite of these was the 24hr lecturethon on ants and bees given by Professor Adam Hart from the University of Gloucestershire. I personally tuned in to the live webcast about 2am on the Monday morning and there he was passionately talking about giant ant hills, the intricate homes of wasps and honey facts. He even had an international audience skyping in from Singapore and South Korea despite a few glitches with the connection.

As a member of the society I thought I may as well do my bit in support of biology week. I arranged a visit with my local Basildon academy to give a talk to the year 10’s about biology careers with the help of my fellow keen biology volunteers.  

Pupils in awe of the diverse careers in Biology

We were allocated a double period to excite our pupils and we came away with a mutual feeling of content. The pupils were very engaging and gave positive feedback about the talk.  

The Wellcome trust has some great resources on Biology careers which we adapted for the day. Although the video itself doesn't do justice to the subject matter, it showcased some unconventional choices which was good.  In the video, the curious student chats to a handful of professionals and the issue of pay arises. None of the interviewees gave a clear succinct answer though which made me wonder why? I concluded that they probably didn't want knowledge of their income in the public domain. Still a rough estimate or range would be useful. 

During the course of the talks, the one question that kept arising was the pay grade of the various roles that were exhibited. Although some of these questions may have been an attention seeking ploy, truth is, it helps to know. Nonetheless these questions stirred up a worrying concern in me.  

I worried because the keen desire to know the pay scales made me wonder whether money was becoming the motivation for our youngsters in contemplating future careers.  I may be the odd case but money was certainly not on the table when I stepped into science. I chose science because it was and still is the only subject that makes sense to me.  A role based on facts not theory (although arguably maths is the only factual subject) and I could relate to the subject in real life scenarios.

With the direction the world economy is heading and the rising cost of education I suppose one has to be wise in making decisions that will impact directly on ones future status.  After all, every investment deserves a positive return. So next time we go enticing the next generation of scientist, let’s be sure to mention the price tags.   
It doesn’t hurt to know and I have made note to provide this information in my future talks.  I do however think that it is important to point out to our young ones that roles evolve and the primary motivation to pursuing a selected path should be interest rather than wealth.  Adapting the famous quote, if you care for animals like Picasso painted you have a pretty good chance of being a wealthy zookeeper.  

I'm keen to hear your thoughts on the matter and to find out if my fellow STEM ambassadors have had similar experience.

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