Receiving A-level results is a key milestone. For many students it’s a turning point, and marks their first step into the working world – whether that’s heading straight into a job, or pursuing higher education.

The STEM industry needs talent, specifically a diverse range of talent – and this doesn’t just come from one route or a select number of subjects. There are many routes into a rewarding tech career and in this article, several women from across the industry share their thoughts and advice.

The sector can’t innovate with the same set of skills

Sam Richardson is a Principal Advisor at Twilio, with over 20 years of experience working with famous brands – helping them see things differently, particularly when it comes to how they interact with customers. She studied Social Policy, Politics and Social Welfare at university – and believes the sector needs more than those with traditional tech qualifications.

“We always require a diverse set of skills and mind-sets, and the growth of generative AI makes this even more paramount. AI is only going to be as useful as the talent we have in place to fully realise its benefits.

“I don’t have a traditional tech background, but I believe there’s no such thing as a traditional path into a tech career. In my job I help brands to approach things differently, and I think that’s only possible if the sector attracts people with a wide range of skills and backgrounds.

“Whether it’s arts degrees, or no degree at all, we’re a better team because of this diversity. You can’t be innovative if you all have the same skills, world views and similar experiences.”

There’s a variety of paths that you can take

Arianne Graham is a Project Management Apprentice at BAE Systems. Despite getting good grades after receiving her Scottish Higher results, university wasn’t a financially viable option for her. Despite this, she found an exciting opportunity with BAE Systems, which offered apprenticeships with ample career development prospects and room for growth.

“When I left school, I took up an admin job, but I wasn’t very fulfilled – that’s what lead me to go down the apprenticeship route.

“I wanted to build on the skills I had already acquired in my admin role, so I was attracted to project management. Being from Glasgow I had always been aware of BAE Systems because of the shipyard, and knew they had a great reputation for their apprenticeships, but I did not know about the variety of roles or career paths that you could take. I had assumed that you had to be an engineer to work at the company, so I was pleased that I could pursue a project management role which would play to my strengths.”

As a STEM Ambassador and a part of the reverse mentor scheme, Arianne is deeply involved in promoting science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields. Her passion lies in supporting and assisting various individuals, and believes more should be done to showcase the variety of routes into this field.

Challenging yourself with a hands-on approach

Last summer Hazel McGarth was an A-Level student planning for a degree in Psychology. However, realising she preferred a more hands-on approach; she instead applied to be a Project Management Apprentice at BAE Systems Naval Ships. It is a decision she has not regretted.

“I really never thought I’d be doing this, it’s built my confidence so much. I’ve been shadowing managers and controllers who are organising scheduling. They don’t throw you in the deep end, but they do challenge you.”

Working in Project Controls – essentially problem solving as the Company works to maintain budgets, dates and milestones – Hazel has already seen the proud moment of the first Type 26, HMS Glasgow, being floated off at Govan.

While many of her school friends have been beginning courses and sitting in classrooms, Hazel is engaged in helping deliver crucial defence assets to the UK Royal Navy.

“I just realised university was not for me. There seems to be a lot more purpose to what I’m doing. I know a lot of my friends who went to college are now wishing they had taken on an apprenticeship instead. For me it’s a good mixture of being hands-on as well as studying for my diploma. I’m so glad I made this decision.”

The final word

With A Level Results Day upon us, this year’s school leavers must make some important decisions on what next step best aligns with their personal values and aspirations for their career. What is clear, though, is that success is not limited to a single path – the options into STEM careers are endless.

With the world of STEM always evolving, the industry demands a workforce who can innovate, collaborate, and tackle complex challenges head-on – and this can’t be achieved through one single path.

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