Hundreds of scientists and politicians have descended on classrooms around the country in an effort to inspire the next generation to pursue careers in STEM.

As part of the CSIRO’s STEM Professionals in School program, about 90 science, technology, engineering and mathematics professionals joined 50 members of Parliament and visited more than 350 classrooms around Australia on Friday.

The professionals came from esteemed organisations including CSIRO, the Bureau of Meteorology, and Defence Science and Technology.

The event, which kicked off National Science Week, aimed to show students the various STEM careers that are on offer, and inspire them to pursue them at university and in the workforce.

CSIRO astrophysicist Dr Karen Lee Waddell, one of the experts that visited students, said the event was all part inspiring the next generation of STEM professionals.

“Research has shown that enrolments in STEM subjects are at a 20-year low, despite projections indicating that 75 percent of the fastest growing occupations will require STEM skills,” Waddell said.

“Today’s event is about inspiring a curiosity that will encourage more students to pursue STEM as a foundation of their future.”

The event was all about showing young Australians the endless opportunities that are available in a career in stem, Waddell said.

“I was primary school-aged when someone first pointed the constellations out to me,” she said.

“All these years later I am still looking up at the night sky, only now I used Australia’s most powerful survey radio telescope. I want to show students how exciting STEM careers can be and, ideally, inspire some to follow that path.”

Students participating in the program learned about the various careers on offer, and also got to work with dancing robots, hear tales from the high seas and news from outer space. The professionals presented to the students on the opportunities in STEM, while students were also tasked with identifying STEM workers in their own neighbourhoods.

STEM Professionals in School is Australia’s largest volunteer STEM education program, run by the CSIRO with government funding from the Department of Education, for primary and secondary school teachers and qualified STEM professionals.

CSIRO education and outreach director Mary Mulcahy said the program is always looking for more professionals to join the cause.

“STEM professionals can make subjects come to life by sharing their work and their excitement about what they do,” Mulcahy said.

“We want teachers to be able to draw on the resources that STEM professionals can offer all year round, so we we’re calling for more STEM professionals and teachers to join our STEM Professionals in Schools program.”
The SEEK Employment Report 2018 found that engineering and science and technology placed third and fourth respectively for growth in job ads, with 25% and 22% in 2017. The report found that there is a significant skills and talent shortage in Australia for STEM jobs.