STEM Ambassador – Katie Renton

Katie Renton is Allan Webb’s Strategy and Capability Head and also active in consultancy for the company, so you may meet her if you have any supportability needs in the future. In addition to her 9-5 role, she has taken on the responsibility as lead STEM Ambassador for the company and channelled her 20+ years’ of experience to help encourage STEM careers in the next generation. In celebration of British Science Week, she’s shared some of her experiences with us.

STEM Ambassador 

I am the lead STEM Ambassador for Allan Webb Ltd, supporting other members of staff who wish to volunteer as an Ambassador, alongside the STEM activity I support personally. The company has been great, and have supported me and the other Ambassadors fully with volunteering activity, as investing in the next generations is seen by the company as so important. Without them, and their engagement there will be no engineers or technologists of the future. 

As a young person in the 1990s I didn’t know that much about STEM, apart from the subjects we did in school. Physics made your hair stand on end, Chemistry made funny smells and Biology, well less said about that the better! I was also rubbish at Craft Design and Technology, relying on my Dad to make a jewellery box for me as I had no interest (sorry Mr Jones). Engineering was something that middle aged men with drawing desks or men in boiler suits did. How wrong I was. 

One person changed my life. At 18 I went to the Royal Air Force Careers office to talk about becoming an RAF Policewoman. A truly brilliant man, Sgt Taff Rees took the time to explore my interests and discussed all of my options with me, suggesting a day’s work experience at RAF St Athens with the Engineers. 6 months later I was attesting my Oath of Allegiance about to embark on a brilliant career in Engineering. Taff and I are still in touch, and Taff, I know I still owe you a coffee…

My career has been amazing. I have had great challenges and continue to face my days with passion and enthusiasm. There are so many jobs and fields in Engineering and wider STEM that I honestly couldn’t have made a better choice of career in terms of interest and possibilities. I have evolved and been given the opportunity to grow with my jobs, and have been given so much support by some of the most interesting and smart people.  I truly have been given great opportunities, and have had some exceptional mentors throughout the last 20 odd years. 

So I felt that it was time that I gave something back. 

Diversity in STEM 

Diverse teams bring strength, each person’s uniqueness brings a new factor to a team, a way of thinking, new ideas. Having a diverse set of opinions, ideas and approaches can resolve complex problems quicker and with more flexible solutions. A lack of diversity in STEM would lead to fewer discoveries, which in turn leads to fewer and potentially less viable solutions to some of our most pressing problems in society and the world. With a background in Avionics Engineering starting my career in 1998, moving into Supportability Engineering, I wanted to support STEM learning in the diversity challenge as I personally experienced what it was like as a minority in a much less diverse environment than we have today. 

What is STEM Learning? 

STEM Learning is an organisation that is supported by a unique partnership of Government, charitable trusts and employers who are dedicated to raising young people’s engagement in STEM subjects and careers. STEM Learning supports a wide range of people, from teachers (primary through to further education), groups and local communities (STEM Clubs and Home learning support) and employers to develop, inspire and engage young people in STEM subjects. As a STEM Ambassador I offer time and enthusiasm to bring Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics to life. STEM Learning as an organisation support me and my fellow Ambassadors with material, training and a range of opportunities to work with young people across the UK spreading the message that STEM is for everyone! 

STEM Engagement

 I have been a STEM Ambassador for just over 18 months and it has been a wonderful learning experience for me. I have seen young people’s enthusiasm and excitement for what the world can offer to them, and that has been the best experience anyone can have! 

Prior to the lockdown in 2020 I spent time in a couple of local schools in Gloucestershire delivering assemblies on STEM and Engineering (with a focus on my own career in Defence) and also supported classes in activities such as bridge building challenges, great fun I have to say! My colleagues in AWL have supported other events as judges in technology competitions and supported schools in diversity challenges. 

Since lockdown in March 2020 all of my engagement has been online. I have recorded careers videos for schools local to where I grew up, short videos for science museums with a diversity theme, and more recently I am supporting my local primary school with a series of virtual assemblies championing diversity in Science. It has been amusing when friends message me saying their children have run in saying, “look Katie’s on the computer!” fame at last!

STEM Learning and other STEM organisations are always looking for support, the more the merrier! So if you feel that you can give a few hours to this, I would very much encourage it! 

Being a STEM Ambassador has been so rewarding for me, and I am sure I can also speak for my colleagues that volunteer. You work at your own pace, on the activities that you are comfortable with. The support is entirely there for you, from information packs through to training on how to engage. I have met some fantastic people. 

If I have encouraged one person to look into STEM that wouldn’t have thought of it before, that is a real success.

Get In Touch

We’re always interested in discussing STEM opportunities with the wider community. If you’d like to get in touch with Katie, please feel free to do so using the following link:

Contact Katie

If you would like to find out more about STEM Learning UK, check out their website.