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Diversity lights up the STEM stage


SIX YEARS after its initial launch, Your Future, Your Ambition (YFYA) celebrated another year of success, as they hosted an event which educated, inspired and encouraged school children and young people to pursue studies and careers in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM).

The event, hosted at Emirates stadium on Thursday (Oct 5), put diversity across gender and ethnicity at the forefront, as over 900 students descended upon the north London stadium to talk to companies encouraging STEM education for today’s youth.

Speaking ahead of the event, YFYA Founder and Director Rashada Harry, said: “It is hard to believe Your Future, Your Ambition (YFYA) launched as a small initiative in 2012 with big ambitions. Now, we are celebrating our sixth successful STEM event, having inspired close to 4000 students and conducted over 300 STEM activities and workshops.”

“2017 has certainly been a landmark year for YFYA. The growth of the core team, more organisations joining YFYA on the journey of STEM diversity and our exciting re-brand have created the energy and enthusiasm needed as we grow and take YFYA to the next level.”

Long-standing patrons including BP, Bloomberg, EY and National Grid, as well as welcomed additions ITV, De La Rue and Cambridge University came together at the educational event, alongside The Voice, which hosted its own seminars for children, based around our Made by History competition.

One of the many patrons of the YFYA event, the EY Black Professional Network, has been involved with the organisation since it’s inception. “We have been sponsoring this particularly event probably since the time it started. It’s one of the events we feel we want to be engaged with because there’s a lot of different student fairs that happen but a lot of them do not focus on BME people who we need to train to get into our business,” said co-chair Serita Murray.

“As chair of the EY Black Professional Network, I feel that it’s important to drive BME’s into our businesses and bring awareness to the inclusion of BME people in the STEM sector.”

Cornell Brent of 100 Black Men of London, spoke to The Voice about their involvement in encouraging today’s youth. He said: “Seeing the organisations which were apart of this event, made me see that this would be an amazing opportunity to present the 100 Black Men of London to young people.”

“There are a lot of potential members at this event, and we’ve spoken to a few young people and showed them who we are.”

The 100 Black Men of London also run a London start-up business incubator programme. “It caters to young entrepreneurs between 18-25 who have at tech-based business,” he said. “We’re invested in today’s youth and STEM is a growing part of that.”

Elisabeth, a volunteer from the The Student Development Co commented: “As a non-profit organisation, we focus on helpinh young people from disadvantaged backgrounds get into careers like STEM. This is a priority for us and we aim to teach people from a young age that’s important to consider your future – especially going to careers like STEM.”

The Student Co aims to provide career-related support and advice to 16-24 years olds, and is keen to create opportunities for young people to be inspired to achieve their full potential.

“I think to encourage younger people into entering STEM careers, we must make sure companies who are hiring are as inclusive as possible,” she adds. “We must speak to children from these backgrounds and let them know they’re is a space for them. I’m really supportive of outreach programs as its important for young people to see it advertised that there are companies catering to all people.”

Following a day filed with activities, the Your Future, Your Ambition executive event took place, as organisations came together to discuss the future of STEM in today’s climate. The event, lead by Rashada Harry included a panel discussion with Patrick Clarke OBE, Se-Hsieng Eng, Dr Valerie Kohler and Yogesh Chauhan, as they explored various topics included technological advancement and educating the elderly, to the necessity to evolve as quickly as technology does.

The star of the show, 8-year-old Calumn Daniel - CEO of ICodeRobots – made quite the entrance with his team of robotic engineers and students, as they presented his phenomenal technology to an impressed crowd.

As the event came to a close, Origbo Dili, Head of Internal Audit at TFL, spoke fondly of her experience at YFYA. “It was a fantastic event. This is our first year being engaged in this program and its difficult to know what to expect, but the children was so engaged, they were really inquisitive and interested in what we do in technology, and we plan to bring it back next year big and better.”

“TFL have various programs within STEM education, and bringing young people into technology and engineering within the organisation. And we have an outreach program, and I’m a part of women in tech outreach, and our focus is to attract young women into science and technology and make sure they’re represented across the industry. We just want to inspire them to see that we do more than trains and run the network – we’re a wealth of opportunities and possibilities.”

“I think events like this, are important because it bridges the cap between the people and the companies, and allows us to attract people from various communities. It’s pivotal for organisations like YFYA to keep doing what they’re doing.”

The YFYA event was undoubtedly a rousing success, with many of the patrons and attendees pledging to attend next year.

The Voice is celebrating its 35th birthday this year. Share your Voice memories, comments and birthday wishes on social media, using the following hash tag: #Voice35Years

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