Tag Archives: industry and education

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

ICT

On the cusp of mass cultural change

The Australian Computer Society has estimated that an additional 100,000 new information and communications technology (ICT) professionals will be needed in Australia over the next five years alone. While this industry continues to grow and impact upon the Australian economy, only 2.8% of females choose ICT as their field.

In my role as head of the School of Computer Science at the University of Adelaide, I hear every year from young women who have been told by someone important in their lives – perhaps a teacher, a family member or a careers counsellor – that computer science is not a job that women do. However, we know that companies with strong gender diversity are more likely to be successful and have higher financial returns. We need to broaden participation in creating and driving technology innovation in our country so that it is reflective of the diverse perspectives and voices that represent our community.

How can we address this gender imbalance within ICT? I believe that the answer lies in our new Australian curriculum and in increasing support for our education system.

Australia is on the verge of a significant change – all Australian students will soon be learning the fundamental concepts of computer science, and will move from being users of technology to creators of their own technology. This is an incredible opportunity for us as a nation to change our culture for women in technology, and more broadly, women in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM).

Changing stereotypes in STEM on screen

Children start forming their views on what careers are, and whether they are for a man or a woman, from an early age. These views are reinforced by messages from all directions. Very few family films show women in positions of power, or with active careers; only 45% of females in family films are shown to have careers, while STEM male roles outnumber STEM female roles by five to one.

These unconscious biases impact how we, and our children, develop our understanding of who we are, and who we can be. We urgently need to address this if we are to see the diverse technology community that we need.

Connecting STEM professionals with schools

Australian teachers need ongoing support from our industry and university sectors. We need to collectively engage with our schools to help teachers understand and guide technology creation.

Programs such as CSIRO’s Scientists and Mathematicians in Schools program, FIRST Australia and Code Club Australia, among others, provide valuable opportunities to volunteer and support your local communities in understanding STEM. These programs help explore the amazing ability of technology to solve community problems, and work to engage our students. All of our students.

Associate Professor Katrina Falkner

Head of School of Computer Science, University of Adelaide

Read next: The University of Newcastle’s Dr Nikola Bowden addresses misconceptions about the biggest issues for 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 in ICT 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.