Tag Archives: schools

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.

Parents and schools connect

Developed by MGM Wireless Limited in Adelaide, South Australia, School Star is a secure mobile phone app that keeps parents in the loop about attendance, functions and other school news.

MGM Wireless invented the world’s first SMS based automated communication solution for schools in 2002.

Almost 1300 schools from around Australia use MGM’s communications system and half of them will be active users of the new School Star app within the next six months.

MGM Wireless CEO Mark Fortunatow said the company plans to take the app internationally after its success in Australia.

“We are formulating plans and strategies and hope to move in to the United States and Canada by the end of the calendar year,” he says.

“We also have partners and people in Shenzhen and Singapore that we have been working with for some time and have a network in place there already.”

School Star has a Facebook-styled news feed that can be regularly updated and is the only school app that allows direct two-way messaging between parents and schools with an SMS failover.

“Parents need a feedback loop. School Star does that and a number of other things that no other school app does,” Fortunatow says.

“Communication through other school apps gets to about 40% of the intended recipients at best.

“School Star will automatically send messages and content by SMS instead if parents run out of mobile data or don’t have access to Wi-Fi – so schools will reach almost 100% of parents.

“It is also unique because it promises a secure environment where only approved users can access school information.”

Schools install MGM’s content management system and enter in relevant news and information for parents.

Parents and students then register themselves using a secure two-factor verification process and once complete will allow users access to school information.

Only registered users from the current school database can use the school specific School Star app. It also allows the schools to ‘lock out’ unwanted users.

MGM ensures that sensitive information like names, photographs, dates, and places are kept secure at all times.

“Schools are loving School Star – they can publish news and send messages with a smooth interface and easy integration path,” Fortunatow says.

“News articles are easy to create, and parents love keeping in touch with what’s going on at the school.”

“School Star includes an engagement dashboard with state-of-the-art analytics so schools know which content is working best.”

School Star is available to download for free in the App Store and Google Play in Australia and will be available in the United States and Canada later this year.

– Caleb Radford

This article was first published by The Lead South Australia on 27th April 2016. Read the original article here.

Australia: nation of inventors or innovators?

If Australia wants to become more than just a land made up of quarries, farms and tourist beaches, it has to ensure more scientists and engineers are trained to drive innovation, warns Dr Katherine Woodthorpe, Chair of the Antarctic Climate and Ecosystems Cooperative Research Centre, and panellist at last week’s inaugural Science Meets Business event.

The event, hosted by Science and Technology Australia, aimed to “kickstart a reshaped and refreshed conversation on ways to boost collaboration between Australia’s great businesses and scientists”.

Speakers at the event came from a wide range of industry, government and research, each presenting their ideas for an innovative future.

Keynote speaker Dr Larry Marshall, CEO of CSIRO, celebrated ‘deep tech’ as an ecosystem of plenty, responsible for 100% of US jobs last year. In his experience, deep tech entrepreneurship creates a virtuous cycle of innovation.

Marshall wants to meet industry halfway, working together to understand what customers want. This is not an overnight solution, he warned. “Both CSIRO and Australia will be in beta for the next five years.”

In exploring problems of “diagnosis and lifting the game”, Ken Boal, Vice President at CISCO Australia and New Zealand, said businesses should lean in more, connect with universities and help in the translation of research to the wider community.

Australia: nation of inventors or innovators?

Intrinsic to this translation of research outcomes is a STEM outreach program to schools. Professor Ian Frazer AC, Head of the Diamantina Institute at the University of Queensland, identified the roots of the problem beginning where schools focus on students achieving high-performance marks. Science is tough, and often students are advised to choose an easier subject to maximise their score. He also emphasised the need to place greater value on science and teachers.

Hugh Bradlow, Telstra’s Chief Scientist, suggested that technology could be part of the education solution. If technology is able to reduce costs of education, then perhaps we can pay our teachers more and attract a higher calibre of staff, he proposed.

The Hon Karen Andrews MP, representing Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, believes business and science need each other, and Australia needs both. Even though we don’t know what the jobs of the future are going to be, we know there will be core skills required, like coding and data science, she explained. Maths and statistics will be in high demand, alongside creative thinking and entrepreneurship. Andrews is putting together an action plan to connect industry and research.

While the official announcement was still under wraps, Australia’s next Chief Scientist Alan Finkel encouraged a celebration of Australia’s achievements and an effort to build upon the engagement that already exists, like relationships between Rio Tinto and the University of Sydney, and GlaxoSmithKline and Monash University.

Woodthorpe suggested that superannuation funds have a role to play in Australia’s innovation growth, and that fund managers need to realise this in order to support their next generation of members. Another barrier to innovation is the lack of digital experience in the top 300 ASX companies. Boards need to see technology as a future business model, not a piece of equipment, she said.

Newly returned from the US and now heading up Commercial Strategy at the Kinghorn Centre for Clinical Genomics at the Garvan Institute, Dr Russell J Howard has had recent success at raising capital for a new venture. He believes the three key imperatives to commercialisation success are:

  1. To nurture smart capital, and to show founders how to create good intellectual property;
  2. To create an innovative environment;
  3. To enable access to experienced management – people who have experience in commercialisation.

Finally, Mr Peter Yates AM, Deputy Chairman of the Myer Family Investments talked about his own support of start-ups. He likes to collect entrepreneurs rather than artists – in 15 years both have usually increased in value!

– Karen Taylor-Brown, CEO and Publisher at Refraction Media