STEM outreach inspiring the next generation of talent, key to filling labour gaps and breaking stereotypes

Careers in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM), including skilled trades, are among the most in-demand across Canada. Over the coming decade, with a retiring workforce, the need is expected continue to rise causing an even more significant gap in the skilled workforce. 

While addressing today’s needs and future demands is a significant task, and requires a coordinated effort among all stakeholders, youth outreach and education play an important role. Research confirms that youth advocacy, engagement and programming creating positive in attitudes and behaviours toward STEM. 

It’s also providing education and career pathways to in-demand employment. If kids have never had any meaningful exposure to STEM, how would they know if it’s a career path for them? As they say, knowledge is power. And, in this case, it fills an important gap and to make an informed decision about their future. 

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Even if outreach doesn’t result in a lifelong passion or career—which is OK, too—studies prove that STEM programming helps youth build confidence as well as important life skills no matter what type of career they choose to pursue. Perhaps even more importantly, it’s contributing to a changing mindset about certain career paths and helping foster and improve inclusion and diversity within those fields.

Jennifer Flanagan, the co-founder, president and CEO of Actua, says that stereotypes sometimes get in the way. For example, in engineering many don’t know what engineers do, but they might assume their jobs are technical and don’t allow for creative or critical thinking—or that it’s a career option men, but it’s far from true.

Only by learning about what different professions do, meeting mentors and role models and peeking behind the curtain into a day in the life can kids get the firsthand experience to make informed decisions and break biases and stereotypes. 

There is also economic upside, too. Having the right mix of talent to fill current and future needs also contributes to a high employment rate. Without enough STEM professionals like tradespeople, engineers, doctors, nurses, scientists, heavy equipment operators, and the list goes on, impacts the ability to build roads, railways, bridges, tunnels, houses, buildings and other important infrastructure.

In many cases, STEM programming has a profound impact on youth and their skills development and is even contributing to change and diversification in a wide range of STEM professions. That’s why Finning is proud to partner with a number of outreach organizations like Actua to help educate and inspire the next generation. 

STEM careers aren’t for everyone, but in many cases, outreach is the first step in finding out.

You can find out if a STEM career is right for you. Whether you are a student in search of post-secondary opportunities, a parent of a student or someone interested in a second career, visit your local college or trade school. For parents with younger children, explore youth STEM programming by visiting, and help develop skills and a passion for science, technology, engineering and math.