Tuesday, 25 April 2017

Good engineers are simply curious!

'What do you want to be when you grow up?' This can be, perhaps, the most limiting question you can ask a child.

Why? According to the World Economic Forum, 65% of children entering primary school education today will be in jobs that don't even exist yet! The rate of development in the fields of Engineering, Computer Sciences and Information Systems at the moment is amazing – even where I'm from in Cork, the city is changing all around me. The single largest research building in the European Union was opened just a few months back in University College Cork and it is dedicated purely to the computational and mathematical sciences.

The future work life of our current Ladybirds, Brownies and Guides is largely unwritten and, as Leaders and Senior Branchers, we can all do our bit in our own little way as volunteers to help them be ready for it. Looking back on how Guiding started up in the first place – with the intention of giving girls practical and outdoor skills and confidence to contribute their all to society, it does seem a bit absurd to be talking about technology but the closer you look, the more relevant it seems.

When I was in primary school, I was absolutely convinced I wanted to be a teacher and nothing else! All the other kids around me had similarly simple dreams, of being a nurse or a vet or a famous actress. I'm even struggling to think of more of the options we chose because they were pretty limited. That was fine for a bunch of primary school students filling in a bunch of questionnaires but the pattern continued into secondary school and, more troublingly, as the CAO application deadline approached. During one particular Irish class every student either wanted to be a nurse or a teacher – and when my turn came round to speak up as a hopeful Energy Engineering applicant, there was a bit of a silence – I mean, Engineering? What's that?

I will always stand firm in the belief that 'you can't be what you can't see' and the field of technology suffers hugely from this inconvenient truth. As a child I wanted to be a primary school teacher because day-in-day-out I headed into school and saw the teacher leading the class and doing a great job. I looked up to her and, at that age, I had a small understanding of what the job entailed. I can assure you I have no childhood memories of coloring in a picture of an engineer, but I was always taught how to spell 'nurse'.

Currently, the proportion of jobs in telecommunications, scientific research and development and computer programming that are held by women stands at less than 30%.  Ironically, the courses that are the foundations for these have some of the most attainable CAO points (Engineering in CIT was 410 in 2015) while primary school teaching and medicine continues to be unreasonably high. To further add insult to injury, these jobs are amongst the best paid in the country. Soon the gender pay gap, in Ireland anyway, will not be stemming from society’s bias against women, but more so from women's uncertainty and lack of confidence in pursuing tech and engineering careers.

Even as a college student, I am noticing the great benefits of following the path of an Engineer – faculty loans are offered to Engineering undergrads at a lower interest rate, I am in receipt of an industry scholarship from Intel to help with college fees, and there are plenty of summer internships to go around for everyone. These little things make such a huge difference, and would not be accessible to people outside of the STEM fields.

What can we do to help solve this problem? Exposure! Has your unit ever visited an observatory? Would your unit like to call to a meeting of Coder-dojo? Would you like to do a show-and-tell session on the Guide or Brownies’ favourite invention? Could you get speakers in for your Senior Branchers?
I find these days I'm defining the Engineering mindset as, thinking about a more efficient way to get jobs done. That's the job description in general really. Engineers learn about how things work and how to make everything run better – they solve problems. We frame engineers, computer scientists and IT leaders as nerds, or people who just love maths but trust me, there are plenty of engineering students, even in UCC, who struggle with maths just as much as anyone else – most mathematical problems can be solved with a computer anyway! 

In reality, good Engineers are simply curious, like to complain about how things are run, and like to provide their own remedies for a particular problem - and I don’t know about you, but I sometimes find Guides to be particularly good Engineers at meetings!


In conclusion, I would like to mention why I chose Energy Engineering as my specified discipline. I never had any experience programming, didn't do Engineering for my Leaving Cert, and did not study Applied Maths either. I simply asked myself the question – What's the biggest issue facing our generation, and how can I help be a part of the solution? (I would recommend this as a solid starting point for anyone struggling with their career choice at the moment). I realised that reducing energy consumption and aiming for more sustainable and green production for our ever-growing needs seemed like a good cause, so here I am, learning all about it. 

~ Vera O'Riordan, McEgan Senior Branch, Macroom

Monday, 24 April 2017

'I started to appreciate how important the International Scout and Guide Fellowship is'

Sarah Cahill, a Trefoil Guild member living in Waterford, recently went to Slovakia to take part in a workshop organised by the International Scout and Guide Fellowship. Thirty-two people from 13 countries attended to discuss the challenge of recruitment. Sarah thoroughly enjoyed her first experience of international Guiding/Scouting and wrote the following about her experience:  
It was an unexpected and wonderful opportunity to participate in the 7th Europe Region Workshop that took place in Smolenice, Slovakia (3 - 8 March 2017). I am still not sure how I got the chance to go on this adventure. A lot of credit has to go to my Fellowship contact in Ireland, Margery, who was very good about explaining as much as she could to me and being very persuasive.
My first impression of Slovakia was definitely a great one as we left Ireland in the rain and came into Bratislava in full sunshine. For those of you who are from a warmer climate that may not be a novelty but, to an Irish person who hadn’t seen such sun in a long time, it was heavenly. Thankfully, this continued throughout the week we were there.
I’ll admit one of the main reasons I said ‘yes’ to this trip originally was because of the location. Who doesn’t want to stay in a castle? This certainly didn’t disappoint either but became very much a backdrop to a wonderful experience rather than the focus. The workshop itself was a great experience. I met so many interesting people and learned quite a lot about the organisation throughout Europe.
On the first day we learned a lot about Slovakian Scouting. It was great to hear about this group that I, for one, would not otherwise have contact with. This was also so throughout the workshop with a few of the members there telling us about their own organisation. It was fascinating to learn what was important to them and the many activities of the different countries that were present at the workshop.
I must say, for a country and people I knew nothing about, I was very impressed. They are really nice and accommodating. The one thing that was so noticeable when we went touring in the towns on the last day was the quiet and calm nature of everyone.
The food was always plentiful but the one thing I’d say is bring your own dessert: they do not know the sweet type of confectionery that we know! They are much better off for this, of course, but it’s not easy for me to go a whole week without any! Thankfully, some people had brought chocolate for sharing. One thing to remember for next time.
Over the course of the workshop we had many presentations on many different topics. For a new member, like me, there was a lot of interesting aspects to these. Of course the focus of this workshop was recruitment. For a group only representing Europe we had a certain amount of similarities but some very interesting ideas come out of it too.
The one thing I personally had to get my head around was the lack of groups for adults in Guiding and Scouting in other countries. In my innocence and lack of knowledge of the international side of Guiding (which I do plan to change) I thought every country with an established Scouting or Guiding organisation would have similar to us, an adults’ section or a group that you can retire to if you can no longer be an active leader. This seems to be not the case at all and the need for the Fellowship really started to solidify for me.

Over the weekend I really started to appreciate how important the Fellowship is to so many leaders. As a young member of this organisation I was in Slovakia as much to learn from the workshop as to get answers as to what it was, why does it exist? I definitely had my answers by the end and so much more.

Friday, 7 April 2017

'We should campaign for all the rights we deserve'

We are four Guides in Ireland, aged 11, 12, 13 and 14. We each believe strongly in gender equality whatever your age, faith, or nationality. We are all approaching this topic from different points of view, yet we are all approaching the same conclusion. 

I would consider myself a feminist and I am definitely for gender equality. It has been something I know women and men have been fighting for since time immemorial. We should never just accept the norm of society, we should campaign for all the rights we deserve. – Martha (14)

The world is evolving so much with technology, but some people like to move back rather than forward in society, and go against equality. – Aisling (11)

I believe that everyone should be given equal rights, equal pay and equal opportunities and it is disappointing to think that in some countries this is still not happening. Women and girls are being refused education and jobs outside of their home. – Hannah (12)

Women have not been treated nicely by men all throughout time. They have been denied their rights and opportunities. It is still very common and happening on a daily basis in offices, sports, factories, schools, and entertainment. I believe strongly that women's rights are important. As a feminist, I believe that both genders deserve equality. Equal pay for equal work, and so on. I strongly hope and believe that from our generation forward, there will be equality in our society. – Aoife (13)

Conclusion

This is a universal goal that we all wish to achieve and we hope you wish to achieve it with us. 

~ St Rynagh's Guides, Offaly