There is no doubt that innovation is the key to unlocking immediate and future societal growth. There is no field that has done more in terms of innovation than STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics), which has for centuries driven innovativeness. Smart societies that have consistently invested in STEM research have continued to record significant growth and development. This is why STEM jobs are on the rise.
STEM professionals are some of the best critical thinkers that contribute significantly to solving societal problems by innovating solutions through scientific discoveries and technologies. Remember Albert Einstein, Michael Faraday, and Thomas Edison? Or most recently, Bill Gates, the Late Steve Jobs, Oluyinka Olutoye, or Elon Musk?
STEM research has helped people create technologies that cater for various human needs. For example, the mobile telephone was created by someone who realized the need to communicate. This innovation underscores the power of STEM research.
It is for this reason STEM related jobs are in high demand across the world – they impact how our lives in the future will unfold and, consequently, drive economic growth.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labour Statistics, STEM jobs are projected to grow by 8%, a higher rate than non- STEM jobs, between 2017 and 2029.
To reduce the high level of unemployment in Nigeria, stakeholders have advised the government and corporate bodies to invest heavily in STEM education to create more opportunities for the youth and boost job creation.
Stakeholders believe that if Nigeria must compete globally, she must be deliberate about raising scientifically literate people.
Against this backdrop, Interswitch Group, a leading pan-African electronic payment, and digital commerce company, introduced its pan-African National Science competition, InterswitchSPAK Switch-a-Future initiative to help enhance the study of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics in schools.
InterswitchSPAK is targeted at inspiring and rewarding secondary school students in the study of STEM subjects to enhance their potential in a bid to build the next set of innovators and problem-solvers in Nigeria and Africa as a whole.
Interswitch recently kicked off the third edition of the InterswitchSPAK competition, tagged ‘InterswitchSPAK 3.0’. A total of 18,274 science students across the six geopolitical zones registered for this edition. A total of 17,805 candidates completed the registration, while 10,502 candidates wrote the exams online across the country.
About 35% of the registrants came from public schools, while 65% of the students were from private schools. From the first stage of the competition, 15-year-old Alao Oluwateniola from Divine Step College, Lagos State, had the highest score of 93%, followed closely by 15-year-old Okoro Halimah from Taidob College, Ogun State, who got the second highest score of 92%.
Overall, 81 students have emerged as finalists to compete for the top three spots and win scholarship funds worth N12.5 million for tertiary education in the InterswitchSPAK competition.
The winner will be rewarded with a five-year scholarship in any tertiary institution worth N7.5 million, a laptop, a plaque, and monthly stipends. The first runner-up will also be awarded a three-year scholarship in any tertiary institution as well as a laptop and a plaque totaling N4 million while the second runner-up will get one-year scholarship of N1 million, a laptop and a plaque.
The InterswitchSPAK platform was designed to encourage the study of STEM education and excellence.
Undoubtedly, STEM is helping to improve productivity and efficiency in all sectors of the economy. It is thus important that we leverage it to reduce unemployment in the country. Most importantly, we must do everything within our capacity to catch these children young and nurture them to become experts and problem solvers that will help drive economic growth.