Tag Archives: work experience

education report

Education report urges greater connections between schools and industry

The latest education report released by the Mitchell Institute at Victoria University has found that a lack of industry and community engagement in schools means that students are not being adequately prepared for the world of work.

The education report found that effective school-industry partnerships could smooth the transition from school to workplace in light of changing demands due to technology advances. Declining numbers of school-industry partnerships mean that school students may be missing out on these opportunities.

School-industry partnerships offer a range of activities to students, including real world learning projects, mentoring programs and career-taster days. Mitchell Institute Director, Megan O’Connell explains that the importance of these activities is increasing as workplaces change and evolve.

“Schools alone can’t foster the many skills and capabilities students need to thrive in the digital age,” Ms O’Connell explained. “Partnerships between schools and industry is one of the best ways to make sure students understand and develop the skills they need for their future careers, so this needs to be a priority for all Australian schools.”

The changing future of work

The report was commissioned to address the changing face of employment across all Australian industries due to emerging smart technologies such as AI, robotics, Internet of Things and big data analytics. To drive future growth and innovation, the report highlighted the need for young people to develop three areas of critical knowledge, skills and capabilities. These include:

  •         STEM skills, which have been estimated to add $57.4 billion to GDP over the next 20 years
  •         Digital skills, including data analysis, building digital platforms and developing software
  •         Transferable skills and capabilities, such as using critical thinking, problem solving, analytic and judgement capabilities to perform non-routine tasks

The report found that the real world learning opportunities providing by school-industry partnerships improved learning outcomes in all three of these key areas.

It examined several studies on the impact of school-employer engagement programs on student outcomes. Programs such as giving students careers-related tasks in mathematics classes were found to increase student opinion of the task’s relevance and boost their test scores. Greater employer exposure during schooling was also linked to greater earning potential after graduation.

Ms O’Connell says that many students lack the opportunities to experience the world of work first-hand.  “We need to make sure every student can access meaningful experiences that provide connections with people outside of usual school and family networks. All students should be able to think about how the world of work aligns with their passions and interests at school.”

Increasing engagement

The report recommended that schools prioritise school-industry partnerships by investing more time and resources into these activities. To address the barriers preventing these partnerships, it was recommended that schools work with the government to alleviate regulatory issues and equity barriers.  

“Currently there are complex administrative requirements getting in the way of partnerships working – we need to do more to simplify these across the country,” Ms O’Connell said.                                                     

“To achieve the benefits, we need a system that supports industry partnerships alongside the curriculum in all Australian schools.”

One school-industry partnership already enjoying success is the Schools Plus program, which is running in three Perth schools. Students participate in weekly STEM-themed robotics classes, supported by Google. The partnership was facilitated by Australian Schools Plus, a not-for-profit organisation. Google provides funding, expertise and time for its staff, including engineers.

Extra resources for teachers

The report highlighted that teachers often lack resources which showcase the applicability of the curriculum to real-world careers. To help them bring classroom material to life, teachers can use resources such as Careers with STEM, a print and digital careers platform for students, teachers and parents.

Both the magazine and online platform feature study tips, quizzes, articles about the STEM careers of the future, a comprehensive tertiary study directory and inspiring profiles. Careers with STEM showcases relatable people from diverse backgrounds, who are often using their STEM skills in unexpected ways. Students are also alerted to upcoming STEM-related competitions and extra-curricular programs, such as the FIRST robotics competition and the Questacon invention convention.

Careers with STEM, published by Refraction Media,  includes a quarterly magazine, which is distributed free of charge to every Australian secondary school, and a digital hub at CareerswithSTEM.com.au.

The Mitchell Institute report, Connecting the worlds of learning and work, is available at www.mitchellinstitute.org.au.

Industry placements pave the way to success

Industry placements for CRC students have been an integral part of the CRC Programme since it began in 1991. While students contribute to solving real-world problems of industry, industry partners mentor students on the commercial side of their field and help produce industry-ready graduates who can hit the ground running.

Rebecca Athorn did a PhD, supported by the Pork CRC, investigating increased feeding and progesterone in young pigs during their first pregnancy and the effects on embryo survival. Part of her project was conducted in a commercial piggery owned by Australian pork producer Rivalea.

Athorn’s work showed that feeding the first-time mothers more didn’t affect the size of their litters, but did make the mothers healthier and live longer.

As well as delivering a practical improvement to commercial piggery practices, the study put Athorn in the spotlight for potential employers.

“I was approached by Rivalea as to my interest in working for them after I finished my PhD,” says Athorn. Several of her colleagues also partnered with Rivalea for their Honours projects before joining the company as employees.

“Having been known to the company and having positive references from those they worked with definitely helped,” says Athorn.

Even students with previous work experience in the field can benefit from an industry placement, says Tracy Muller. She worked with the CSIRO and the Prairie Swine Centre in Canada on pig welfare before entering the Pork CRC’s Industry Placement Program (IPP) at SunPork Farms and starting a PhD to identify and reduce lameness in pigs.

“The IPP has positively impacted on my ‘entry’ into the industry,” says Muller. “Together with the support of SunPork Farms, it has certainly progressed my career in the past four years, since graduating from university 14 years ago.”

– K J Lee

Read more about Australia’s CRCs in KnowHow 2017

STEM work experience

STEM work experience exciting the next generation

Featured image above: Nat Chapman recently welcomed a year 10 STEM work experience student, Isabella, to gemaker

Think back to your formative years. Was there an experience that inspired you follow the career path you did? Or a person who made a difference in the choices you made?

If we truly want to attract the brightest minds to science and technology, STEM companies have a responsibility to inspire the next generation of innovators.

We have a responsibility to give opportunities to high school and university students in the form of STEM work experience and access to our staff.

And a responsibility to make those opportunities genuine, inspiring experiences – not just something to tick a box.

A week in the life of gemaker

When a work experience student came knocking on gemaker’s door, we had one warning for her – we don’t do boring.

Photocopying was off the cards.

Instead, she spent a busy week meeting researchers, assisting with events, attending client meetings and working on projects that gave her real insight into the world of research, commercialisation and start-up culture.

In a single week, gemaker’s work experience student:

  • attended the AGM of an ASX-listed mining company and spoke to shareholders and directors;
  • watched researchers training in how to pitch to industry;
  • toured a university robotics lab;
  • filmed scientists with a videographer;
  • visited a start-up technology company;
  • went to a business meeting with a potential client;
  • helped create an infographic explaining the commercialisation of research;
  • compiled survey data;
  • wrote an article on her experience for the gemaker website.

Through it all, the student was a delight to take out.

She asked interesting and intelligent questions, and the enthusiasm she showed reminded us why we got into this business in the first place.

Yes, it can be challenging to design a program for a STEM work experience student.

Yes, it might be easier to point them at the lunchroom and the photocopier.

But if a small business like gemaker can do it, imagine the opportunities large, established companies and research organisations might be able to offer.

With a STEM work experience student, you win too

Taking on a work experience student can be exciting and have huge personal rewards for you too. A student can help you revitalise, recharge and remember what you love about your profession. It is inspiring to watch them be inspired.

Students can offer a different viewpoint, new ideas and a two-way learning opportunity that might surprise you. Why not ask a student how they think you could improve your social media presence?

Work experience is pivotal to the choices kids make in upper high school and beyond.

If we want to see more students in STEM, and believe passionately in the value of science and innovation, we have a social responsibility as a STEM organisation to provide genuine opportunities for students.

If we don’t make time for the next generation, we’re losing a massive opportunity to show what researchers can do.

Where to start

If you’re not sure how to go about inviting students into your workplace, here are three steps you can take this week:

  1. Tell staff that STEM work experience opportunities are available if they know students with a keen interest in science.
  2. See what STEM work experience programs are running at your own child’s school, and if you can contribute.
  3. Reach out to your local high school (start with the principal) to offer your services to the school.

You have the power within your hands to totally inspire a student or utterly turn them off.

At gemaker, we don’t have all the answers but we’re doing our bit.

And if each of us contributes, we can inspire the next generation and attract the brightest young minds to science and innovation.

– Natalie Chapman, gemaker

commercialisation