The younger we reach students the better!

Gas Networks Ireland celebrate Engineer’s Week.
Picture by Shane O’Neill Photography.

For our festival 2017 we have partnered with a number of extremely supportive organisations including Gas Networks Ireland to create opportunities which aim to excite students about science. Gas Networks Ireland is committed to responsible business practice, ensuring that environmental, ethical and social principles are at the core of its business decisions and are key to its business strategy. We are most grateful for the support and enthusiasm our partners and sponsors provide to enable us to spread the science message and without their help our festival would not be possible. We caught up with Corporate Social Responsibility Manager for Gas Networks Ireland, Christina van der Kamp for a chat earlier this week..

Christina, we are delighted to be partnering with Gas Networks Ireland this year to help make the Midlands Science Festival 2017 a great success. Can you tell us a little about your role in Gas Networks Ireland?

As Corporate Responsibility (CR) Manager for Gas Networks Ireland (GNI) much of my role involves working with colleagues to ensure that CR is high on the agenda right across the business. I am also responsible for all community activity for GNI. Our CR programme is wide-reaching and about so much more than simply volunteering and sponsorship! It influences many areas of our business and revolves around the five CR pillars of Community, Environment, Workplace, Marketplace and Governance.

Gas Networks Ireland holds the ‘Business Working Responsibly’ Mark for responsible and sustainable business practices. One of the first companies to be granted certification in 2013, we are still one of only 25 companies in Ireland that hold the Mark. For us, this is a clear demonstration of our commitment to CR and it’s something we’re especially proud of! Recently, we completed a three year CR strategy identifying priorities under each of the CR pillars, with the aim of further integrating CR with the strategic mission and vision of Gas Networks Ireland.

Do you have a science background?

My background is in communications, I have a degree in Media Production Management and a Masters in Science Communication. The Masters explores social issues in science and technology, and the communications and controversies surrounding them. It gave me a great grasp of the social significance of science in society and the importance of demystifying careers in science to young people.

Do Gas Networks Ireland support other STEM related educational programmes?

Education in particular has been a major focus of our community programmes to date. With Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) at the core of our business, Gas Networks Ireland delivers a programme called ‘Our Universe’ to over 5,000 primary school kids in partnership with Junior Achievement Ireland. This science education programme is delivered by volunteers from different organisations across the country annually. The purpose of the programme is to influence and encourage students to continue with science in secondary school and beyond. We also hold events on Engineers Week and exhibited at the iWish conference this year.

Recent data shows that Ireland continues to experience a skills shortage in the STEM sector. Why is it important for companies like Gas Networks Ireland to support events like the Midlands Science Festival and what do you think we can do to keep dispelling the myth that science is difficult?

As an engineering organisation, it’s hugely important that we support events like the Midlands Science Festival. We relish our role of encouraging the workforce of tomorrow! Events like the Midlands Science Festival and programmes like Our Universe introduce science in an informative yet appealing way and play an important part in having a positive influence on students’ perception of science. The younger we reach students the better!