More STEM professionals need to take time out to showcase what they do to students in Australian schools, with CSIRO and Ai Group leading the search for volunteers.
CSIRO’s partnership with Ai Group is through the Scientists and Mathematicians in Schools (SMiS) program, which links practising scientists, mathematicians, engineers and technology (STEM) professionals with students.
The aim is to generate interest and motivation in STEM careers through real-world exposure, but it seems industry and corporates aren’t participating.
“Only 13 per cent of STEM professionals [participating in the program] come from industry and corporate businesses,” Ai Group said.
This is an issue because industry is often one of the first and most vocal critics of the lack of business-ready STEM skills coming through Australia’s educational institutions.
AiGroup Chief Executive Innes Willox believed industry could “do more” to support the Australian economy and its skills pipeline.
According to the Ai Group and the Office of the Chief Scientist's STEM Skills Partnerships program, 75 percent of the fastest growing occupations require STEM knowledge and skills but at the moment the number of students coming out of university is not keeping up with this demand.
“Our relative decline of STEM skills is holding back our national economy and causing real frustration for employers,” Willox said.
“Our evidence shows that bringing real-life, hands-on STEM into classrooms results in students being more engaged in these subjects,” CSIRO education manager Mary Mulcahy added.
“Letting students know about the diversity of careers available to them is also important – jobs from accounting, construction, nursing to hair dressing all use STEM skills.”
Cisco, an Ai Group member, is one of the few corporates involved in the program.
Cisco Australia vice president and program mentor Sae Kwon said it was a real privilege to give back to the students that will be tomorrow’s great innovators.
“The kids are fascinated that I talk to them from other countries like Singapore over video conference, Kwon said.
“It’s great to be able to talk about the cool jobs available, the great people you get to meet, the many countries you can visit and all the fun you can have working in STEM.
“I was certainly not aware of the cool jobs that exists in STEM until I started working in the field.”
Those wishing to get involved are able to register their interest here.
Ai Group’s push to get more STEM professionals into schools came as it also embarked on a “major collaborative project” to create apprenticeships for students wanting work in the so-called “fourth industrial revolution” – an umbrella term used to describe the digital disruption occuring in various industries.
The apprenticeship scheme is a collaboration with Siemens and Swinburne University of Technology, and is the beneficiary of federal funding under the Apprenticeships Training – alternative delivery pilots initiative.
All three will launch an apprenticeship pilot that “combines the best of university and vocational learning models to improve STEM skills of technically minded participants.”
“It also incorporates skills for the new millennia in business and design,” the three organisations said.
“Participants will be highly capable post-Year 12 school leavers and will be employed under arrangements built upon the apprenticeship model for the duration of the program.”
The pilot will initially involve 20 participants through participation in a Diploma and Associate Degree in Applied Technologies with guaranteed pathways for graduates to a relevant Bachelor Degree by 2020.
"The award of an Associate Degree articulating to a Bachelor’s Degree will appeal to a broader range of potential applicants than the standard apprenticeship model,” Ai Group’s Willox said.
“Employers are able to train future technicians with a higher skills level to meet their increasing needs in the knowledge economy.”