Future STEM Business Leaders programme in Tanzania

All IOP programmes aim to do one thing, support physicists and promote physics, and our work in Tanzania is no different.

There are many students who take STEM subjects at secondary school but of those, the majority do not continue onto university. In our experience there are two reasons for this being the case; many students in Tanzania do not attend university but secondly, we have found that students, and this is true in several countries, are not aware of the many avenues an education in STEM can lead you down. There are endless possibilities and one of those could be starting a business.

Over the last year we have developed a programme to help students see the possibilities. It begins with initial training in practical science and its connection with business. We work with students, and their teachers, to demonstrate that science can be an engaging subject, which is shown through some practical (and very simple) experiments. We then spend a day talking about business, how it connects with science and how this can be done in Tanzania. We invite local science based businesses to explain how they started their business and to teach the students basic business principles. The week ends with a project where the students are tasked with developing their own science based business, in this case the development of a music festival, and they are required to use the business and science communication skills they have learnt throughout the week.

This however, is only the beginning. Once the students have been through the hypothetical learning experience, they are given the opportunity to apply those principles to their own ideas. Our students live in Tanzania and understand the problems their country faces. Armed with their new knowledge in science and business, we ask them to generate scientific ideas that may help with some of those problems. Once the idea is formed (indeed, many already have ideas before we meet them) they are then supported over a six month period to incorporate and build on the business skills that they have learnt. They are supported by business mentors, who are business owners in Tanzania, and the Dar Teknohama Business Incubator based in Dar es Salaam.

At the end of the programme students present their business concepts to a panel of judges and the students who have the best developed business idea are given the opportunity to do a six week internship with one of our business mentors. Through this they will have the chance to view a business in action and gain first-hand experience about how a science based businesses operate in Tanzania. This is a unique opportunity for the students to learn about the relationship between science and business but it also a fantastic opportunity for us to learn, as well. The partners involved are able to see the ideas and inspiration that these students have and help bring those ideas to fruition.

The Future STEM Business Leaders programme is reaching the end of its first year, it has been a fantastic year and we have had the pleasure of working with amazing and inspirational partners, businesses, teachers and students across Dar es Salaam. The programme will run for a second year, beginning in September 2018, and we will continue to work with the same schools but also invite several others to join the process.

My vision is for the programme to continue to grow until we have students from every secondary school in Tanzania benefiting from this initiative. The next generation of scientists are of great importance and our programme will work towards supporting the future STEM business leaders of Tanzania.

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