Tag Archives: Australian education

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.

combining skills

Women in STEM: the revolution ahead

On September 8, 70 days after the end of the financial year, Australia marked equal pay day. The time gap is significant as it marks the average additional time it takes for women to work to get the same wages as men.

Optimistically, we’d think this day should slowly move back towards June 30. And there are many reasons for optimism, as our panel of thought leaders point out in our online roundtable of industry, research and government leaders.

Yet celebrating a lessening in inequity is a feel-good exercise we cannot afford to over-indulge in.

While we mark achievements towards improving pipelines to leadership roles, work to increase enrolments of girls in STEM subjects at schools and reverse discrimination at many levels of decision making and representation, the reality is that many of these issues are only just being recognised. Many more are in dire need of being addressed more aggressively.

Direct discrimination against women and girls is something I hear about from mentors, friends and colleagues. It is prevalent and wide-reaching. There is much more we can do to address issues of diversity across STEM areas.

Enrolments of women in STEM degrees vary from 16% in computer science and engineering to 45% in science and 56% in medicine. These figures reinforce that we are teaching the next generation with the vestiges of an education system developed largely by men and for boys. There is a unique opportunity to change this.

Interdisciplinary skills are key to innovation. Millennials today will change career paths more frequently; digital technologies will disrupt traditional career areas. By communicating that STEM skills are an essential foundation that can be combined with your interest, goals or another field, we can directly tap into the next generation. We can prepare them to be agile workers across careers, and bring to the table their skills in STEM along with experiences in business, corporates, art, law and other areas. In this utopian future, career breaks are opportunities to learn and to demonstrate skills in new areas. Part-time work isn’t seen as ‘leaning out’.

We have an opportunity to redefine education in STEM subjects, to improve employability for our graduates, to create stronger, clearer paths to leadership roles, and to redefine why and how we study STEM subjects right from early primary through to tertiary levels.

By combining STEM with X, we are opening up the field to the careers that haven’t been invented yet. As career areas shift, we have the opportunity to unleash a vast trained workforce skilled to adapt, to transition across fields, to work flexibly and remotely.

We need to push this STEM + X agenda right to early education, promoting the study of different fields together, and creating an early understanding of the different needs that different areas require.

This is what drives me to communicate science and STEM through publications such as Careers with Science, Engineering and Code. We want to convey that there are exciting career pathways through studying STEM. But we don’t know what those pathways are – that’s up to them.

Just think how many app developers there were ten year ago – how many UX designers. In 10 or even five years, we can’t predict what the rapidly growing career areas will be. But we can create a STEM aware section of the population and by doing so now, we can ensure that the next generation has an edge in creating and redefining the careers of the future.

Heather Catchpole

Founder and Managing Director, Refraction Media

Read next: CEO of Science and Technology Australia, Kylie Walker, smashes all of the stereotypes in her campaign to celebrate Women in STEM.

People and careers: Meet women who’ve paved brilliant careers in STEM here, find further success stories here and explore your own career options at postgradfutures.com.

Spread the word: Help Australian women achieve successful careers in STEM! Share this piece on women combining skills in STEM using the social media buttons below.

More Thought Leaders: Click here to go back to the Thought Leadership Series homepage, or start reading the Graduate Futures Thought Leadership Series here.