Around 650 people registered to attend a virtual event to find out how to pursue careers in STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) and other roles with Stevenage’s world-class employers. MBDA, Airbus, GSK, East and North Hertfordshire NHS Trust, Cell and Gene Therapy Catapult and Stevenage Bioscience Catalyst took part in Generation Stevenage on Tuesday 1 December.

Pupils aged 15-18 from over 65 schools and colleges, together with their parents, carers and teachers, registered to hear from Stevenage’s leading organisations about how they can apply for jobs and apprenticeships in science, technology, healthcare, defence and space.

Bim Afolami, MP for Hitchin and Harpenden, encouraged young people and their parents/carers to make the most of the virtual opportunity to find out about the exiting careers on their doorstep with some of the UK’s most innovative employers.

Sector champions representing their industries each made a three-minute ‘pitch’ to viewers saying why they should consider applying to work for their business.

Dr Stephen Ward, Chief Manufacturing Officer, Cell and Gene Therapy Catapult, talked about some of the fantastic therapeutic advances taking place on site including their pioneering work on a COVID-19 vaccine.

He said: “This is real, tangible stuff and it is well within everyone’s grasp on this call. You can be part of it.”

George Stephens, who trained as a nurse and is now Deputy Director of People Capability at East and North Hertfordshire NHS Trust, explained why he loved working for the NHS and his job: “It’s not just doctors and nurses. It takes a massive team of people to deliver healthcare.”

In live polls during the event, 61% said they love sciences, technologies and mathematics and talk about it a lot with their family/household, with 72% saying they were very keen to find out more about STEM events.

Stevenage Development Board Chair Adrian Hawkins said this demonstrated the significant interest among young people and that he was very hopeful this event would come back to Stevenage possibly in person, and even bigger next year.

He said: “Skills development is central to Stevenage’s Town Investment Plan and its narrative for improving lifelong learning and levelling up in the town. Generation Stevenage, and other events like this, send a very clear message to our young people that they are part of their town’s exciting future.”

Early career leads and apprentices then talked through their experiences and answered questions directly from the audience during a series of breakout sessions.

Airbus apprentice Josh shared his experience of working on the Exo Mars project and urged the audience to consider apprenticeships, saying: “You are given opportunities to work on massive projects that you wouldn’t expect to be involved with.”

The event was endorsed by Apprenticeships and Skills Minister Gillian Keegan: “It’s never been more important for people to be able to develop the skills they need to succeed. Skills development will play a vital role as we build back better from the pandemic, by ensuring our places and centres of UK excellence can continue to thrive. Generation Stevenage is a brilliant example of a town that has its act together, connecting young people to key sector industries where there is high demand and creating a pipeline for future talent and innovation.”

Generation Stevenage is a partnership venture delivered by Hertfordshire Opportunities Portal (HOP), Careers and Enterprise Company, Stevenage Development Board and co-organised by educational charity Stempoint East. It is jointly funded by Hertfordshire Local Enterprise Partnership and Stevenage Borough Council.

This partnership model of delivering careers and apprenticeship advice via Hertfordshire Careers Hub is now being considered across other parts of the county, with Generation Watford expected to take place in March 2021 and possibly a Generation Hertfordshire event later in the year. This will tie in with a year-long countywide campaign to raise awareness of local apprenticeship and traineeship opportunities, both seen as vital to Hertfordshire’s recovery from COVID-19.

A recording of the event is available to view on www.hopinto.co.uk/generation-stevenage. For more information about apprenticeships and other career opportunities, visit Hertfordshire Opportunities Portal: www.hopinto.co.uk.