5-minute briefing: Big Bang Near Me

Jul 8, 2019

The Big Bang Near Me is a UK-wide programme of events that distil the wonder, interactivity and inspiration of the UK Fair to showcase STEM careers to even more young people nationwide.  Here Arran Goodchild, who manages the programme, gives his view on what makes it special.

What role does Big Bang Near Me play in inspiring the next generation of STEM professionals?

Big Bang Near Me reaches over 170,000 young people each year with relevant STEM careers inspiration. The programme includes 12 regional Big Bang fairs held across the UK (many of which host regional heats of The Big Bang Competition), and over 150 smaller events held in schools and the community.

I think regional events differ from the UK Fair because we connect students and schools with local industry, which is a focus of the Gatsby Benchmarks in England and Wales. Our events are a true imprint of what is on the students’ doorstep, showing young people what sorts of STEM careers are available to them in their local area. They’re more relatable, less abstract.

What do you think young people get out of attending a regional Fair?

We don’t sing the praises enough of the power of talking to people outside your immediate circles! My career was based on talking to someone in my parents’ pub, who suggested I study chemistry because I would find it interesting and exciting. I’d never met anyone that had raised that possibility before, or had any influence on my study choices. My parents hadn’t gone to university and I didn’t know the option was there.

What we’re facilitating through Big Bang events is young people speaking with adults outside of their socio-economic groups, to find out what a job’s actually about, or the range of opportunities available to them. We’re helping them discover and develop what they want to do, to avoid them going down one avenue and realising later that they could have done something else if only they’d known about it.

How does that differ to the @ School experience?

Of the 200 Near Me events, over 100 are held in schools all across the country. These are a lot like Sports Days in school, but for STEM! Events range from scientists and engineers going into assemblies to talk about their jobs, to turning the sports hall into a showfloor with interactive stands like at the UK Fair, or the science lab being taken over by companies to showcase science in action…

The fantastic thing about these @school events is that they enable amazing teachers who lack resources or are based in more rural/harder-to-reach areas to bring the Big Bang straight to their classrooms.

As a result, these events reach a much larger pool of students. Instead of just a minibus of keen students going to a regional fair or even the UK Fair, everyone’s there! The kids who’ve got no interest whatsoever or have had no exposure to STEM outside of a curriculum setting, can get to meet real-life scientists and engineers who are going to tell them about their jobs. And that might trigger them.

The Big Bang Near Me programme has evolved over the past few years, what do you think are the best developments?

We have grown a programme with all the key ingredients – great venues, brilliant delivery partners who are great at doing outreach, and employers who are keen to work with schools – and we’re getting better at doing it.

The regional fairs have grown in size, quality and variety of content and the industries represented. We’re also more focused on passing on relevant and varied careers messages to young people. They’re also a great forum for the various STEM institutions (from the IET to the Royal Society of Chemistry) to come together.

The @school events have also seen a huge appetite and take-up, from both schools and employers.

Why do you think employers like to be part of Big Bang Near Me?

Our events are an opportunity for businesses to celebrate what they do with the local community.

Because the Near Me programme runs regionally, employers get to have a true local footprint, meeting their future workforce face-to-face.

Hopefully we make it easy for them – they might not have an outreach team but we can help them connect and prepare. That’s why they like being involved.

And it’s great fun too!

What would you say to anyone thinking about attending a Near Me event?

To businesses wondering what they have to offer, I’d say think about what your company does – not necessarily the big picture, but the technologies you use, the interesting things along the production line, etc. Think outside the box, break down your work and see what elements might appeal to a young audience. Also make your activities as hands-on and interactive as possible for young people. We can help!

To young people – Explore! Talk to everyone! Don’t be afraid to go beyond the curriculum, use this opportunity to reach beyond your school/home walls. Go out and find your own interests. Also, maybe think about doing a project to enter into The Big Bang Competition, as this could be life-changing.

What do you like best about working on Big Bang Near Me?

At the risk of sounding soppy… it’s seeing the changes in young people. Watching the wonder and excitement on a kid’s face when they win a prize and they never thought they would – that’s priceless.

Also, and I can’t stress this enough, it’s seeing the range of expertise and enthusiasm within our networks – our brilliant delivery partners, our tireless volunteers, the people who take days off to help inspire young people at our events. We can never thank them enough.

What’s on the horizon for Big Bang Near Me?

This year’s regional fairs are happening right now, and I’m so excited for another brilliant season of inspiring STEM events!

In the next few months we’ll be looking at how we can maximise impact and increase diversity. We want to work with more hard-to-reach schools and see how we can link a wider range of industries – like film, computer game design, humanitarian aid, and other, non-traditional, industries that people have never seen in a STEM fair before!

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