Kindergarten to STEM career: Tips for skill development & industry exposure

A multi-ethnic group of children at kindergarten dressed in STEM career related outfits


Darlene Engoglia, Vice President of Global Human Resources, Park Place Technologies, looks at how early exposure to STEM careers can prove pivotal in shaping future innovators. Darlene also delves into how young minds can gain essential skills and enrich their learning.

With over 30 years of progressive experience in human resources leadership, Darlene Engoglia is dedicated to cultivating a vibrant and inclusive workplace culture that drives organisational success.

STEM career

As the Vice President of Global Human Resources at Park Place Technologies, she leads strategic initiatives to attract, develop, and retain top talent while fostering employee engagement and alignment with company goals. Additionally, she oversees managing and facilitating the seamless integration of employees from more than 25 global acquisitions. She has been with Park Place Technologies since January, 2015.

Early exposure is a recognised but underutilised strategy for encouraging women’s participation in traditionally male-dominated industries.

This approach entails providing girls with early access to resources showcasing STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) career paths and teaching them the skills necessary for success in these fields. Early-childhood STEM education typically comprises two key elements: skill development and industry exposure.

Building Blocks for Future Innovators: Early STEM Skill Development

In today’s rapidly evolving world, the demand for skilled professionals in STEM fields, particularly in information technology (IT), is growing exponentially. As a result, educators, parents, and mentors are proactively equipping children with the necessary skills and knowledge to learn about and pursue careers in skills-based, dynamic, and competitive industries. Early skill development in classrooms teaches students how to navigate complex challenges, build creative solutions, and thrive in ever-changing environments.


Coding is often the first skill that comes to mind when discussing STEM careers. Although coding skills are very valuable in technology, there are plenty of career paths that won’t require someone to code – marketing, as an example. However, understanding the process and applications for coding can help demystify the industry as a whole.

Today, countless tools are available to help teach kids (and educators) the basics of coding, starting as early as primary school. Two excellent resources include ScratchJr and code.org. Each activity is crafted to make learning technical skills enjoyable, ignite curiosity, and foster creativity in the next generation of STEM leaders.


Robotics and mechanical design serve as excellent stepping stones to make the technology industry more accessible to young children. For instance, LEGO and Terrapin Logo offer learning kits that teach kids how to build and operate robots in fun, interactive, and age-appropriate ways.

STEM Challenges

Classroom assignments that challenge students to design, build, and test solutions to real-world problems significantly contribute to STEM career preparedness. One popular example is building a parachute and a basket out of everyday items that will protect an egg from cracking when dropped from a pre-determined height. Other challenges include constructing a bridge out of classroom materials capable of supporting a specific weight, or building a simple circuit to illuminate an LED bulb. These lessons foster critical thinking, experimentation, and hands-on learning, nurturing essential skills for future STEM professionals.

A plethora of online resources tailored to educators, parents, and students are available, focusing on STEM and suitable for various age groups. STEM-focused activities in the classroom help inspire career paths for the next-generation. Additionally, they reinforce lessons taught year-round in the classroom, such as communication, collaboration, adaptability, time management, emotional intelligence, and leadership.

STEM career

Opening Doors to STEM Careers: Industry Exposure for Young Minds

In addition to skills development, students also benefit from exposure to advanced technologies at a young age. A makerspace, for example, can be set up in a classroom, gym, or library in collaboration with community members who work in STEM fields. These spaces allow students to independently or collaboratively explore technology tools and materials like 3D printers, electronics kits, simulators, and coding platforms, fostering experimentation and innovation.

Career fairs are also valuable tools for acquainting students with STEM-focused career paths. For such events, it’s important to include both technical and non-technical career examples in STEM industries in order to appeal to more students. In addition, community participants should be coached to effectively demonstrate and explain their work in an age-appropriate, interactive manner.

One more example of industry experiences that resonate well with young audiences employs virtual reality (VR). Through VR technology, students can delve into immersive simulations and virtual environments from a safe distance. VR is also effective for visualizing abstract concepts such as computer networks, data visualisation, or the inner workings of a computer.

Fostering Inclusive Futures: Empowering Tomorrow’s STEM Leaders

Incorporating these lessons and immersion opportunities into the classroom necessitates support for educators. Alongside the tools and technology required for classroom learning, community members with first-hand industry experience should have a seat at the table to provide feedback and support for educators.

Successful early exposure challenges gender stereotypes, dispels misconceptions, and inspires girls and underrepresented communities to pursue their interests in STEM fields. By engaging and nurturing their curiosity and passion for these subjects early on, we establish the foundation for building a diverse talent pipeline and fostering greater gender diversity in these critical sectors. Through hands-on experiences, positive reinforcement, and exposure to diverse role models who have succeeded in these industries, students from all walks of life can better envision themselves as future leaders and innovators in STEM, breaking down barriers and paving the way for a more inclusive and equitable workforce.


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