Multinational clothing company H&M has partnered with Scifest Africa to introduce a Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics (STEAM) program to inspire young girls from previously disadvantaged backgrounds to pursue education and careers in these fields.

STEAM is an evolution of the original STEM acronym with the addition of another layer – the arts – so that students use both hard and soft skills to solve problems.

According to H&M South Africa, the two-day STEAM initiative will take place in Cape Town on October 4 and 5.

Due to rapid technological progress, STEAM fields are playing an increasingly important role in society and business. Therefore, closing the gender gap in these areas is an important way for girls and women to expand employment and business opportunities, the clothing brand argues.

H&M, together with Scifest Africa, will share knowledge and information with communities to raise awareness and empower underrepresented youth.

As part of the two-day initiative, young students will learn about STEAM and fashion opportunities, as well as get hands-on experience solving real-world problems, according to H&M.

“The STEAM program is an initiative we are proud to present in partnership with Scifest Africa,” says Caroline Nelson, Head of H&M South Africa.

“One of our core missions as a brand is to always encourage local representation and diversity, while uplifting the communities in which we operate. As a company that works with data, science and technology every day, this is a great opportunity for us to empower our future leaders.”

Monica Newton, CEO of the National Arts Festival, adds: “We are honored to partner with H&M on this journey to launch their first STEAM program in the country.

“We have a long history of hosting STEM workshops in the country and addressing the skills gap we are currently facing in the country. By partnering with H&M, we can add art to the program and open up the possibilities of what is possible in these areas.”

In addition to the STEAM initiative, H&M says that selected candidates will undergo a three-month mentoring program.

The mentorship program will include one-on-one sessions on key topics with mentors from H&M South Africa selected for their knowledge or expertise in each area, he concludes.

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