Genomic Futures: creating inclusive careers programmes for the next generation of scientists

Date: 21 February 2024

Over the past year, we have focussed on providing a wide range of free opportunities for school students and young people to interact with industry professionals and learn about careers in genomics.

“For many young people, a career in science (and genomics in particular) just isn’t seen as an option. They may not see themselves as a ‘scientist’ or are not aware of the diverse range of careers that are out there waiting for them. It is so important to facilitate access to programmes such as Genomics Futures so that we can break down these barriers and smash those scientist stereotypes. We showcase relatable role models, and enable young people to experience first-hand what it is like to work in different areas of genomics.”
– Francesca Gale, Head of Science Engagement and Enrichment

Wellcome Connecting Science acknowledges that access to science education and engagement is not equal, and we are committed to raising the aspirations of all young people, encouraging them to explore careers in science through our schools engagement programme. Over the past year, we have focussed on providing a wide range of free opportunities for school students and young people to interact with industry professionals and learn about careers in genomics.

A unique insight into different career pathways

We created a series of short films providing a unique insight into some of the different career pathways and job roles available in genomics, from conservation genetics, to bioinformatics and genetic counselling. In the films, colleagues from across the Wellcome Genome Campus discussed their career paths, and what makes them so passionate about working in the field of genomics.


My career in genomics: bioinformatics

We launched our first videos in March 2023 during National Careers Week, and they have since been screened on school visits, at careers fairs, and featured on Your Genome. They have reached over 60,000 people on social media!

We have since added further careers videos which focus on science support roles, such as graphic design, HR, scientific communications and product management.

Alongside these films, we also created a collection of career profile handouts, which are a useful starting point for students considering a career in science, and support teachers explore different job types with their classes.

Genomic Futures outreach programme

Through our in-person outreach programme, we visit schools and colleges in the East of England, with staff from across the Wellcome Genome Campus, and our Genomic Futures careers stand. At our careers stand, students have the opportunity to talk to genomics professionals, find out about more routes into different careers, and get hands on and try out genomics-related skills

We also offer year-round visits to Campus for UK state schools, sixth forms and collages. These include activities, presentations from experts, and a chance to visit the Open Lab, and see one of the world’s largest DNA sequencing facilities. Over the past twelve months, these visits have inspired 6,019 young people, and received excellent feedback. We are now taking bookings well into 2024

For all our outreach work, we prioritise supporting schools in areas of high deprivation, with a high proportion of students in receipt of pupil premium, and in areas of low social mobility.

Our Engagement and Society team member, Cindy Smidt, hosts a visit in our Open Lab space.

“I have been teaching for 37 years and this has been the most inspirational day I have ever had. I have learnt so much as a teacher and the pupils have all had an amazing experience. None of us will forget this day. Thank you.”
– Teacher at St Clement Danes School, Hertfordshire

Expanding our reach with virtual work experience

During the summer holidays in 2023, we held our first virtual work experience course for 14-18 year olds based in the UK, hosted on a careers platform, Springpod. The interactive free course, entitled ‘Genomics, Science and Data Careers’, aimed to help young people experience the diverse range of career options in these fields, and learn about employability skills such as teamwork, communication and interview preparation. The course included videos, interactive quizzes, activities and webinars. Participants also had the opportunity to address questions to staff from the Wellcome Sanger Institute, and across the Wellcome Genome Campus.

The response we received was remarkable. Over 1,450 signed up for the programme, and 607 young people took the time over their summer holidays to achieve at least a Bronze level of course completion. The course has also won a LearnSci Teaching Innovation Award!

This was the first time that we were able to provide this type of experience for young people nationally, removing financial and geographical barriers that many face when seeking in-person work experience opportunities. We were also able to reach those who do not have connections to the industry, or whose parents have not previously studied science, with 31% of participants indicating that they are the first member of their family planning to go to University.

Our virtual work experience course received excellent feedback, with an average rating of 8.4 out of 10. We also saw some impressive increases in their awareness of careers in the industry; how confident they feel about finding a job in the future; and how confident they would feel about speaking to an industry professional.

Starting as a trial, its success means we plan to continue to offer this experience to young people over the coming years.

“We worked with staff from across the Wellcome Genome Campus, from lab-based roles, data roles and non-scientific roles to highlight the massive diversity of jobs on Campus. We put on two live webinars, which were really popular with the students, and allowed them to ask questions to our hosts and speakers. It’s been amazing to see the student feedback from this course, and we’re excited for this to become a staple part of our careers offering.”
– Em Haydon, Science Engagement Manager, Wellcome Connecting Science

As well as our virtual work experience course, we also delivered an in-person work experience opportunity. The Genome Academy, held over the summer, was a three-day immersive experience with 18 places available for Year 12 students. Genome Academy included lab tours, the opportunity to learn about the latest cutting-edge science taking place at the Sanger Institute, and hands-on experience with lab techniques such as DNA extraction, amplification, and sequencing, as well as training with bioinformatics tools. We are running the Genome Academy again this Easter and during the summer holidays.

Our schools engagement programme is continually growing and evolving, and our aim is to ensure that is as inclusive as possible to support the broadest participation.