GAA + Genetics: Smart Futures

Science Foundation Ireland has teamed up with Clare All Ireland Final Hero Shane O’Donnell to launch the Smart Futures strategy that aims to encourage more secondary school students to study science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM)

Smart Futures – What is it?

Smart Futures is a partnership between Government, industry and educators which provides post-primary students, guidance counsellors and parents with important career resources in the areas of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM).

Who’s involved in Smart Futures?

What is STEMCounty Clare’s All-Ireland Hurling Final hero Shane O’Donnell, who is studying Genetics at University College Cork (UCC), has been recruited by SFI  to become an ambassador for Smart Futures.

The 19 year old star scored three goals in last year’s All-Ireland Hurling Final replay and quickly become one of the most talked about teenagers in the country. Shane who has almost 16,000 followers on Twitter will help Smart Futures highlight the opportunities available to young people in the areas of science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

Clare County Hurler and Smart Futures’ ambassador, Shane O’Donnell, said: “As a current student of Genetics at UCC, I have a huge passion for science. I feel it’s important to challenge the negative stereotypes about people that work in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. I’m excited to encourage students to consider a career in STEM, which can be very rewarding; offering a chance to make a difference in the world and contribute to society in a meaningful way.

What is the Smart Futures Strategy?

Smart Futures have recently launched a three year strategy that aims to:
•    Raise awareness of the career opportunities in STEM
•    Encourage industry to increase their public engagement
•    Challenge the perceptions of STEM

Smart FuturesAt the launch of the new strategy, Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation, Richard Bruton TD said: “Bar none, the issue that I encounter most frequently in the boardrooms of multinational companies considering creating jobs in Ireland is talent. Equally, having access to skilled and qualified workers is hugely important for Irish companies looking to expand. Science, technology, engineering and mathematics are skills and qualifications that are necessary for young job-seekers for so many of the new jobs that the economy is creating. Today, supported by my Department, SFI is outlining its three-year plan to provide more graduates in these areas. I am convinced that with proper implementation of this plan, the science, technology, engineering and maths students of the future can play a crucial role in developing the sustainable growing economy of the future in Ireland.”

Specifically the new three year strategy will:
•    Train and recruit 450 volunteers to deliver careers talks to schools
•    Increase industry participation in outreach activities
•    Highlight the exciting career opportunities in STEM to students, parents and teachers
•    Challenge the stereotypes associated with people who work in STEM
•    Provide support and resources to students and parents in decision making related to STEM careers and further study
The ultimate aim is to increase the uptake of STEM students at second and third level by 2016.

Why Smart Futures?

Dr. Ruth Freeman, Director of Strategy and Communications at SFI, said: “Last year Smart Futures working with our partners Engineers Ireland’s STEPS programme, PharmaChem Ireland, the Royal Society of Chemistry, ICT Ireland and the Institute of Physics and individual companies engaged with approximately 28,000 students across the country, through STEM careers outreach. The success of this strategy will be determined by the support of industry in growing a strong base of volunteers to deliver STEM career talks in schools. I would encourage industry to get actively involved and benefit from the training on offer for their employees, and proactively work to ensure a steady pipeline of STEM graduates for the future.”

Carmel Mulroy, Head of Public Affairs at Abbott in Ireland said: “As a global healthcare leader with a significant manufacturing presence in Ireland, having access to a strong pipeline of high calibre graduates particularly with STEM backgrounds is very important for Abbott. Because of this we see initiatives like Smart Futures as an important part of our ongoing efforts to open the eyes of Ireland’s best and brightest young minds to the possibility of a career in a STEM related industry. This process needs to start at school level and we are pleased to be part of this work, both through our existing programmes in schools and through this bigger industry-wide initiative.”

Calling on all industry stakeholders to get involved, Deirdre Kennedy, Corporate Citizenship Manager at IBM Ireland, said: “Smart Futures offers IBM and other industry partners the opportunity to coordinate and strengthen our STEM careers messaging under the Smart Futures umbrella, providing schools with high quality resources, access to role models and importantly, a process for evaluating outreach activity in this space.”

If you’d like to find opportunities and see what it’s like to work in science, technology, engineering or maths, visit where you will find videos, career chats, blog-posts and sector profiles on Pharmaceutical Chemistry, Technology, Medical Devices and Manufacturing.

Has your teen been in touch with Smart Futures? Share your experience with us in the comments below

Did you like this article? Read more about Smart Futures in these articles Why Science and Technology Should be Your Career, Consider a Career in STEM

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This website was created by Jill Holtz and Michelle Davitt, both of whom are mothers of young children. Jill and Michelle decided to create this resource themselves, and launched in 2007.