Technische Hochschule Nuernberg (GERMANY)
About this paper:
Appears in: INTED2019 Proceedings
Publication year: 2019
Pages: 3100-3107
ISBN: 978-84-09-08619-1
ISSN: 2340-1079
doi: 10.21125/inted.2019.0818
Conference name: 13th International Technology, Education and Development Conference
Dates: 11-13 March, 2019
Location: Valencia, Spain
The increase in digitalization of industry and work means that low-skilled manufacturing jobs are increasingly being replaced by automation and robotics. As a result, skills in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) subjects are increasingly necessary for success in careers of the future. The number of graduates in STEM subjects has not been increasing fast enough to keep up with the demand for qualified professionals.

One way to help meet this demand would be to activate potential students from groups who have been traditionally underrepresented in STEM subjects, such as people from non-academic families, those who come from a migrant background and women. Up until now, these disadvantaged groups have been relegated to unskilled employment in the service industry, which often corresponds with low pay and precarious employment contracts. Instead of being left behind by the push to digitalization, enrollment in STEM subjects could enable these groups to become qualified professionals for future careers in growth industries.

There are a number of reasons why people from these underrepresented groups hesitate to enroll in STEM majors at universities. Cultural traditions, social groups and peers can all influence decisions about whether to even attempt university studies. A scarcity of positive role models often makes it difficult to identify with STEM careers. Lack of information about the application process and financial aid programs presents a further hurdle which can make studying at a university seem hopelessly out of reach. One of the biggest hindrances is a lack of self-confidence in their own abilities.

First generation students, people from migrant backgrounds and women in STEM majors can lead the way through their positive examples. Already during high school, before pupils have to make their decisions about vocational school vs. university studies, outreach programs can pair pupils with university students to form mentoring tandems. A prototype for a mobile app which coordinates cooperation between these mentoring tandems is described. Additional digital channels to recruit and support underrepresented students, such as chat bots and recommender systems, are discussed.
Digitalization, diversity, STEM, first-generation, minorities, women, mentoring, mobile, app, chatbot, recommender system.