On May 31, 2022, a Thematic Session of the EU STEM Coalition took place in Brussels, Belgium. The meeting was hosted in person for the first time since the beginning of the Covid crisis. The main goal of the (closed) meeting was twofold: (1) to discuss and set the long-term objectives of the network for the 'post-covid' period, in particular taking into account recent developments like the inclusion of the network in EU-objectives and agendas and the changing needs of the member organisations during the covid period, and (2) a thematic part focused on discussing the network's responses related to specific developments and topics. Several external speakers took part in the meeting, including from the European Commission (DGEAC), the European Institute for Innovation and Technology and JA Europe.
The thematic part of the meeting included sessions on the Centres of Vocational Excellence-initiative of the European Commission (in which several platforms have a major role), the follow-up to the EC's Chips Act for Europe (in which the EU STEM Coalition was included) and a potential partnership with the Pact for Skills for Micro-electronics and the ongoing EU actions in the area of STEM, most notably those implemented via the European Institute for Innovation and Technology. Finally, the networks communication strategy was discussed.
The Thematic Session (closed meeting) had two main objectives:
The participants were limited to representatives of each of the national and regional STEM platforms in the EU STEM Coalition network. These included the platforms from Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Finland, Estonia, Germany, Netherlands, United Kingdom, Switzerland, Belgium, Spain and Hungary.
Due to a public transportation strike in Belgium that was announced shortly before the meeting, it was decided to somewhat condense the meeting programme to make sure that all participants would make it back in time for flights etc. The final version of the meeting programme can be found in the meeting documents via the button on the right side of the page.
1. Introduction (Geert Asselbergs, EU STEM Coalition)
A brief introduction to the meeting was provided by Mr. Geert Asselbergs (coordinator) providing a brief history of the network, an overview of the ongoing developments and purpose of the meeting.
2. Setting the Stage: EU Developments in STEAM (Svein Hullstein, European Commission)
The introduction was followed by a brief presentation by Mr. Svein Hullstein (DGEAC) outlining the ongoing activities of the European Commission focusing on the STEAM components in the European Strategy for Universities as well as other upcoming Commission initiatives in the area of STEM / STEAM.
3. Thematic part 1: Centres of Vocational Excellence (Boudewijn Grievink, CoVE Community of Practice)
For the first thematic part of the meeting, Mr. Boudewijn Grievink, tasked by the Dutch national STEM platform to organise the Community of Practice of the existing and future CoVE project gave an in-depth presentation on the purpose and workings of the Centres of Vocational Excellence, a relatively new, large-scale initiative of the European Commission in the area of vocational education and training (VET). Several of the national STEM platforms in the EU STEM Coalition are already involved in the first (pilot) projects of this instrument (total estimated budget: 400 million), and in some cases their programmes served as models for the instrument itself (Katapult, NL, TKNIKA, ES). The goal of the discussion was to assess how the STEM platforms can contribute to development and quality of the CoVE's, most notably in the formation of the partnerships (as was already accomplished in the case of the Central Denmark Region) and by leveraging the projects themselves to popularise (technical) VET as viable career options to students in primary and secondary education.
4. Thematic part 2: Strategic partnerships (Judit Balogh, EIT & Beatrice Boots, PTvT)
Following the various new objectives and agendas of the European Commission in which the EU STEM Coalition was included (Digital Education Action Plan, Communication on Achieving the European Education Area by 2025, Chips Act), the second thematic part of the meeting focused on the follow-up to these objectives. To do so the session was split into two parts. The first part focused on the European Institute for Innovation and Technology (EIT), the EU institution that is tasked by the Commission to lead the implementation of several of the objectives listed above. An introductory report was given by Ms. Judit Balogh of the European Institute for Innovation and Technology (EIT). In her presentation, Ms. Balogh outlined the EIT's current activities in the area of STEM promotion in primary and secondary education including the 'Girls go Circular'-programme, as well as some of the expected upcoming initiatives. The discussion part of the session focused on how the national and regional platforms (which often work on a much larger scale than the EU institutions in this area) can be leveraged more effectively to help scale-up these initiatives. Some concrete steps were agreed on by the EU STEM Coalition members during this part of the session (see below).
The second part of the session focused on the recently published Chips Act & Pact for Skills for Micro-Electronics. A meeting with the chairman of the board of the latter and the chairwoman and coordinator of the EU STEM Coalition was held the day prior to the meeting (May 30, 2022) and a brief update to the rest of the network was given to the rest of the network by Mrs. Beatrice Boots (chairwoman). In the meeting with the Pact for Skills it was agreed that in order to achieve the ambitious goals of the Pact (500.000 new entrants in the sector) as well as the objectives for diversity and gender equality a broad scope that includes primary and secondary education is needed. In the discussion session it was agreed that the EU STEM Coalition would prepare a position paper on how these numbers can be achieved through the existing networks (see action points below).
5. Thematic part 3: Best practice sharing (Geert Asselbergs, EU STEM Coalition)
As a result of the public transportation strikes this session was limited to a presentation of the various support instruments the EU STEM Coalition is currently implementing in the context of the project "Towards a European STE(A)M Platform", how these can be utilised by the non-project partners in the network and what the results have been so far (see presentation slides). A brief round of input from the members was collected regarding the topics and focus points. Other announcements included the inclusion of several new members in the network (to be announced at the upcoming General Assembly) as well as the host-country of the next General Assembly (France)
6. Thematic Part 4: Communication (Minna Melleri, JA Europe)
The final thematic part of the programme focused on the communication activities of the network. An introductory report was provided by Minna Melleri of JA Europe (dissemination partner of the EU STEM Coalition) and experienced lobbyist. Mrs. Melleri's presentation focused on the various options and objectives of EU-level communication ranging from policy change and agenda setting to raising public awareness, as well as several case studies of successful information campaigns. The discussion part of the session focused on the topics of the key-messages of the network on the EU-level for the post-covid period and the most relevant target groups. It was also agreed that the secretariat would map out the different communication activities of the partners on the national / regional level (e.g. channels, strategies, key-target groups, etc.) to better synchronise communication activities of the national partners and the EU-level network.
Several action points were agreed upon during each of the thematic parts of the meeting. These included: