Fermanagh native Laura McDermott – an apprentice mechanical and electrical engineer with Tetratech – is one of six young people showcasing the importance of maths in work and everyday life as they star in a specially created poster exhibiting in secondary schools across Northern Ireland as part of Maths Week 2021.
The island of Ireland-wide Festival of Maths is one of the largest such festivals worldwide, and takes place online from October 16-24.
Similar in concept to 2020’s programme of events, this year’s festival is largely online and features an extensive range of interactive workshops hosted by international maths presenters, resources for parents, quizzes and a weekday twice daily ‘MathsWeekTV’ series of programmes designed to supplement both primary and secondary school curricula.
Maths Week in Northern Ireland is supported by the Department for the Economy and the festival’s six ‘Maths Ambassadors’ demonstrate how practical maths skills are essential to enable young people to enter, progress and succeed in the jobs arena and fulfil their potential whilst at the same time contributing to the development of the local economy.
Laura is currently working on a major building project in Belfast, whilst studying for a degree one day a week.
She completed her GSCEs at school in Derrylin, Co. Fermanagh, and afterwards went to South West College in Enniskillen to do a B Tech Diploma in Construction and the Built Environment before securing her apprenticeship at Tetratech through Workplus.
Laura said: "I remember doing my GCSE maths and thinking that it wasn’t relevant in today’s world.
“But when I look back, I realise now much maths has helped me during my construction course, and even more so now that I’m in the middle of my engineering degree whilst working for Tetratech.
“I really believe that maths is the foundation to everything, but I appreciate not everyone finds maths easy.
“I would say, just because you aren’t great at maths in junior school, don’t let it stop you from keeping going – and remember, there are many different ways to get to the top.
“I love what I’m doing now and have never looked back.”
Economy Minister Gordon Lyons joined some of the young ambassadors in Holywood to launch this year’s Maths Week.
Minister Lyons said: “I am pleased to support this initiative, given how important maths is in everyday life and how it can open up exciting career opportunities.
“Reaching people of all ages through Maths Week encourages them to maintain and improve their maths skills.
“They may also continue learning and studying maths, in turn giving them access to many great career opportunities in areas such as IT, games development, engineering and medicine.
“Maths also helps to develop skills in research, analytical thinking and problem-solving which can be carried to any job.”
Eoin Gill, co-founder of Maths Week Ireland, said: “It’s essential, particularly in this current pandemic era, that we invest in maths skills and encourage and inspire our young people in schools to enjoy maths and see how it can impact on and benefit job opportunities and careers.
“Our six ambassadors are drawn from a wide spectrum of companies and organisations, but each uses maths in their everyday work lives.
“To date, more than 42,000 pupils from 155 schools across Northern Ireland have already registered for Maths Week 2021, indicating that we should exceed last year’s figure of 56,000 people.
“We are really looking forward to an exciting and positively challenging series of events, workshops and shows.”
For more information on events and resources visit https://www.mathsweek.ie/2021/