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Reaching out to young Canadians

February 9, 2015

A 2014 study by Let’s Talk Science reports that most young Canadians (72 percent) believe science is fun.

Even more youth (78 percent) believe science, technology, engineering and math offer many career options.

Yet, despite these impressive numbers, the study concludes that only 12 percent are very interested in working in science-related jobs.

The Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) understands that both students and educators can find it challenging to connect the dots between enjoying science and pursuing a career in science.

The CNSC is trying to improve this situation in many ways, including through employment opportunities and special events for students, as well as partnerships.

These efforts help the CNSC fulfill its mandate by communicating about the sector it regulates.

Student career opportunities

Over the past year, the CNSC has offered almost 80 student term positions, mainly through co-op and summer student programs. Both staff and students have found this experience positive.

“I really like the access to technical resources throughout the CNSC… along with many documents about science and nuclear engineering. Also, being part of something important at a national or international scale is exciting” – Jacob Wodkowski, student, Information Management Division.

Students often find their experience at the CNSC complements and enhances their studies and helps them plan their future.

“I’m grateful for this experience and I know the skills I’ve acquired here will help me in whatever career I decide” – Adam Comerford, student, Probabilistic Safety Assessment and Reliability Division.

Special events and partnerships

Each year, the CNSC attends events to meet young people and educators.

“Participating in youth-focused events is an excellent way to educate people about our work. I strongly encourage staff to look for opportunities in their communities” – Greg Rzentkowski, Director General of the Directorate of Power Reactor Regulation.

Deep River Science Academy 2014 summer camp participants

Deep River Science Academy 2014 summer camp participants

One such opportunity is at the Deep River Science Academy (in Ontario), which offers students the experience of hands-on scientific research under the direct supervision of a university-level tutor and a professional scientist.

The Academy’s program includes setting up experiments, gathering and analyzing data, and writing technical reports, as well as giving oral presentations.

The CNSC not only encourages its staff to speak with the students, but has also provided grants to the Academy since 2012.

The CNSC also partners with organizations like Let’s Talk Science to spark students’ curiosity and raise awareness of exciting careers in science.

In 2014, the CNSC helped Let’s Talk Science bring resources dealing with radiation to classrooms across the country.

In one session, the CNSC connected one lucky group of youth with astronaut Chris Hadfield (who was then aboard the International Space Station) to use neutron detectors to measure background radiation.

The CNSC is also a significant supporter of the University Network of Excellence in Nuclear Engineering (UNENE), which brings together Canadian universities, nuclear power utilities, and research and regulatory agencies, to support and advance nuclear education and research and development.

Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield

Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield

One of the UNENE’s many activities is the annual student workshop where participants have the opportunity to present their research to industry and CNSC representatives.

The CNSC understands the importance of events such as these and in turn has provided a grant to the UNENE for the past two years.

Educational resources

A great place for students to foster their love of science is in the classroom, both live and online.

For this reason the CNSC has created CNSC Online, a series of interactive online learning modules and youth-oriented infographics, as well as other educational resources.

To better showcase these resources, CNSC staff attend teacher conferences such at the Science Teachers’ Association of Ontario’s annual conference, to help teachers get the materials they need for discussing nuclear energy and safety in the classroom.

The CNSC believes that building Canada’s future scientific capacity is key to maintaining a safe, strong and innovative nuclear industry and is proud to encourage it.

Initiatives like these will continue to strengthen youth interest in science and help show how different fields of science can meet students’ desires to make a contribution.

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