Tag Archives: STEM skills

STEM talent

What can STEM learn from sport?

Australia is a passionate nation.

The recent Olympics triggered my thinking on how passionate we are about winning. I remember a time when Australia was unable to compete against the world class American, Russian and German teams.  Our nation reacted by establishing the government funded Australian Institute of Sport in Canberra (AIS). The AIS acknowledges they are responsible and accountable for Australia’s international sporting success. Australia’s top sporting talent is selected, nurtured, and trained for the purpose of competing against the world’s best. Their success is celebrated, and the cycle continues.

Growing the number of STEM experts in our workforce is no different. If Australia wants to be recognised as a world-class STEM nation, commitment to developing our talent through established strategic programs funded by sustainable investment is essential.

When measuring STEM talent, our focus is on numbers that come out of university. However, consider our athletes for a moment. They have already been training for the better part of a decade.  They don’t arrive at the institute ready to be trained. Junior athletics, swimming squads and after-school sport training are part of most schools and parents’ agenda to develop their children’s skills from a very young age.  If the success of sport is to be replicated for STEM disciplines, then school years should not be overlooked.

Creating a foundation for young women

Traditional education should always be respected and never replaced, however there is always room for flexibility and balance. My own career in IT was shaped by the foundations provided to me by my high school environment. The all-girls school I attended offered Computing Studies as a subject for the Higher School Certificate.  It was only the second year it was offered and approximately 20 students signed up.  It was here, along with my home environment of a tech-savvy family, where I developed foundations in IT.

I pursued a tertiary education in commerce as I initially had no interest in computer science. Nevertheless, my first significant role was working as a computer engineer in IT – a job I landed based on the foundational skills I had acquired through my high school studies. I had found a position where I was able to solve problems while continuing to learn and gain additional certifications. I was the only female in a team of 12, but I didn’t focus on the gender inequality at the time.

Developing Australia’s STEM talent

Innovation requires novel thinking and raising Australia’s STEM IQ to world-class requires a considered and committed long term strategy, including initiatives for supporting women in STEM.

I work for Deloitte in the technology industry alongside women who have studied econometrics, law, accounting, engineering and arts. Deloitte recognises the importance of driving Australia’s STEM agenda and (amongst other initiatives) have selected two female directors from cybersecurity and technology consulting to share their expertise and experiences with young Australian women through an online mentoring platform, Day of STEM.

Our aim is to inspire Australia’s future STEM generation and highlight the real-life opportunities available in professional services firms like Deloitte.

Elissa Hilliard

Partner, Risk Advisory, Deloitte Australia

Read next: Chair of ATSE’s Gender Equity Working Group, Dr Mark Toner, compares the national need for women in STEM with the barriers faced by women on a personal level.

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 STEM talent 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.

undervaluing stem

Undervaluing STEM skills

“The Mapping Australian higher education 2016 report just released by the Grattan Institute should not be used as an argument to undervalue the contribution that Science Technology Engineering and Maths (STEM) skills make to our economy and future workforce,” says Australian Industry Group (Ai Group) Chief Executive, Innes Willox.

“In highlighting that science graduates find difficulties in obtaining employment the report potentially misrepresents the broader value of STEM skills.

“The STEM debate is not just about science, but it often gets reduced to this, and there is an important distinction between STEM skills and STEM occupations as illustrated by the following observation from the World Economic Forum’s Human Capital 2016 report:

Most new jobs will have a technology component to them. This does not mean, however, that all young people everywhere should simply move into core STEM fields or computer programming. What will be increasingly needed in the 21st century is good training in basic technology competence, asking the right questions, critical thinking, analysing concepts and leading a purposeful life – creativity, collaboration and non-cognitive skills.

“The fact that science graduates have difficulty securing employment does not reduce the importance of STEM skills, which are more pervasive. The difficulty that science graduates experience securing employment may well relate to their lack of employability skills. Technical skills obtained through degree studies are only part of what is required. Employers want graduates to have employability skills and some familiarity with workplaces to more effectively enable them to apply their skills in real workplace situations.

“Looking at the employment rates of STEM graduates today in isolation would be like assessing IT employability skills before the internet was developed – it is very much about the future and creating that future and putting STEM among the mix of skills graduates obtain,” says Willox.

– The information in the Undervaluing STEM article was first published by the Ai Group on 8 August 2016. Read the original article here

graduate employment

Graduate employment in a changing world

How do you best set yourself up to get your dream job in a competitive marketplace? What are the skills that you need to succeed in graduate employment, and how can you determine these skills when technology, the global economy and the make-up of the skilled workforce are rapidly changing?

As the government stands poised on a knife’s edge, Science Meets Business set out to determine the top ways skilled workers can position themselves in today’s uncertain times, and the best future prospects for graduate employment. Our panel of thought leaders considered the importance of the skills that aren’t taught in our universities – how to network, pitch yourself, stay a specialist but garner the ability to work across a broad range of disciplines, with people from a variety of fields.

Getting out of your comfort zone

Scientists becoming marketers, industry business developers that can speak to research – different timelines, different prerogatives, different values, varied benchmarks of success, and the struggle towards a gender equitable workforce. These are just of a few of the road bumps on the path towards a new economy based on skills and services, ideas and inventions, rather than resources.

Job requiring skills in STEMM (science, technology, engineering, maths and medicine) grew at about 1.5 times the rate of other jobs in recent years, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics. That’s great news.

But ensuring our STEMM-skilled workforce has the best opportunities for graduate employment requires more than a passion for work.

Competition in graduate employment

More graduates today are looking for work than there have been for the last 24 years – a record 11.6% of graduates in Australia in 2014 were seeking full-time graduate employment – without success, according to the 2014 Graduate Destinations report from Graduate Careers Australia.

In this competitive workplace, we must ensure not only that we prepare our graduates for success – creating, skilled, agile workers – but that we have the economy that can support them in the future.

How do we get there? We asked our panel of experts to map the path.

Heather Catchpole

Co-founder, Refraction Media

Read next: Victor RodriguesChief Software Architect at Cochlear, on what makes a prospective graduate stand out in the crowd.

People and careers: Meet graduates and postgraduates who’ve paved brilliant, cross-disciplinary careers here, find further success stories here and explore your own career options at postgradfutures.com

Spread the word: Help to grow Australia’s graduate knowhow! Share this piece using the social media buttons below.

Be part of the conversation: Share your ideas on creating and propelling top Australian graduates. We’d love to hear from you!

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

founders

Founders fuelled by STEM

As a full time angel investor and venture capital investor I spend a considerable amount of my time meeting with founders from all walks of life. Ten years back that group would have largely consisted of a few random, risk-taking entrepreneurs and a bunch of computer science grads punching out code. My, how times have changed.

In this current “Innovation Era” it seems the whole world is seeking to get digital and disrupt something. The backgrounds, skills and mindsets in the startup scene are now far more diverse… and what a huge asset that is to the local ecosystem and future of innovation in Australia.

Most comforting to me over the past few years has been the increasing number of founders I’ve encountered from some formal STEM background that’s not just computer science, and how they are putting their ideas to the test. Diversity of thinking, ideas and actions seems to be the DNA of a healthy ecosystem. If we are to create a vibrant, sustainable innovation ecosystem in Australia then we must promote this sort of risk taking through academia and into commercialisation programs.

On a recent tour of Silicon Valley with the current cohort of the muru D accelerator program from Sydney, I had the pleasure of spending time with the founders of astro-educational startup Quberider and underwater inspections company Abyss Solutions.


“It was a pleasure to see these young STEM professionals stand up, pitch and impress some of the world’s most experienced startup investors with their passion and ideas that have true global application.”


Solange Cunin launched Quberider while still studying a Bachelor of Science and Engineering at UNSW, majoring in aerospace, aeronautical and astronautical engineering. Quberider’s director Sebastian Chaoui is undertaking a Bachelor of Engineering and Mechatronics at UTS, majoring in robotics and automation engineering. Abyss Solutions founder Masood Naqshbandi has a Masters in Materials Chemistry and Photonics from the University of Sydney. His highly qualified team hold a number of PhDs and masters degrees between them.

It was a pleasure to see these young STEM founders stand up, pitch and impress some of the world’s most experienced startup investors with their passion and ideas that have true global application. Their diverse skills, intimate knowledge of their subject matter and practical “can-do” attitudes put them in great stead to impress. So did the experiences they shared visiting one of the leading hubs of global startups and innovation.

If we are to create a truly innovative society in Australia that can help make the world a better place, then we need to foster entrepreneurialism among the excellent talent from our leading universities. Support from corporate incubators and accelerators to share business acumen will further accelerate their success. Supportive global capital will surely follow.

Andrew Coppin

Director, Bardama Startup Fund, Affirmative Investments and Timezone Group International

Read next: Attila BrungsVice-Chancellor and President of UTS, sheds light on how we can equip new generations of graduates with the right skills to compete in a changing global market.

People and careers: Meet graduates and postgraduates who’ve paved brilliant, cross-disciplinary careers here, find further success stories here and explore your own career options at postgradfutures.com

Spread the word: Help to grow Australia’s graduate knowhow! Share this piece using the social media buttons below.

Be part of the conversation: Share your ideas on creating and propelling top Australian graduates. We’d love to hear from you!

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

STEM skills

Building STEM skills

There has been a lot of talk about the need to get more students studying STEM skills –science, technology, engineering and mathematics – to equip them for the jobs of tomorrow. For Australia to have the right mix of high value jobs and industries to maintain or improve our quality of life, we need more people with the digital and data-related skills that these jobs require.

A natural assumption would be that the reason we need to encourage students to study science and other STEM skills is to boost our research clout – the cohort of technically trained people within Australia’s university and publicly funded research laboratories. While of course Australia’s research capabilities are a pivotal element of our innovation ecosystem, this misses the point.

In my view, the areas where we desperately need more graduates with STEM skills include industry, government, politics and the entrepreneurial domain.

The ability to use complex data to make evidence-based decisions has never been more critical for decision-making – whether that be in the corporate boardroom, the executive suite, or the cabinet room. Most of the global challenges we face – from climate change to cyber crime – require a sophisticated understanding of STEM and basic STEM skills.

Technology offers solutions to many emerging problems. But experience from the nuclear debate to genetically modified crops tells us that when communities aren’t equipped with a good understanding of the scientific process and complexities behind these issues, it is extraordinarily difficult to secure the societal license required to introduce transformative technological solutions.

But the kicker is entrepreneurship – where young people have some of the best opportunities to harness rapidly emerging technological disruption to create high-value jobs. There is no question that many of these opportunities come from the STEM disciplines. We need to create opportunities where young people studying STEM skills are exposed to entrepreneurial ecosystems, have the chance to see first–hand what it takes and give it a go.


“We can’t afford to wait for more girls to select these traditionally male-dominated careers – we need to be proactive in creating pathways and incentives for girls to enter these fields.”


There are some STEM fields where we need to focus serious effort on getting more girls to engage. In particular, IT and engineering. Both areas are so critical to Australia’s future that we simply can’t afford to be building on half our talent base.

We can’t afford to wait for more girls to select these traditionally male-dominated careers. We need to be proactive in creating pathways and incentives for girls to enter these fields. We also need to provide much better systems and cultures to retain our capable women in STEM and research.

One simple thing we can do is profile and celebrate those female role models who are currently making an impact and are the top of their game in these STEM fields. The recently launched SAGE initiative will be pivotal in helping address the dire under-representation of women at the most senior levels in Australia’s universities and research organisations.

It’s worth noting that research, development, innovation and discovery are all about building from what’s already known. They’re about asking new questions and connecting existing knowledge. This is, at its heart, a creative process. We can’t forget that one of the critical elements in nurturing our most outstanding future engineers and scientists lies in supporting children to engage in the creative arts alongside STEM.

Tanya Monro

Deputy Vice Chancellor Research and Innovation, University of South Australia

Read next: Stephanie Borgman, People Program Specialist at Google Australia/NZ, on how internships offer mutual opportunities for students and businesses.

People and careers: Meet graduates and postgraduates who’ve paved brilliant, cross-disciplinary careers here, find further success stories here and explore your own career options at postgradfutures.com

Spread the word: Help to grow Australia’s graduate knowhow! Share this piece using the social media buttons below.

Be part of the conversation: Share your ideas on creating and propelling top Australian graduates. We’d love to hear from you!

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

Making innovation work

The ubiquity of the term, ‘innovation’ in the Australian political, business and social lexicon risks diffusing its meaning and, worse, its broader uptake in the national interest. Identifying the true meaning and value of innovation requires we significantly rethink the way we approach the generation of ideas and their application into society.

The current transactional approach to innovation in Australia generally eschews direct supports in favour of tax incentives which, unusually in a global context, comprise roughly 90% of government expenditure on innovation. This is like a vending machine approach to innovation, one in which all attention is focused on the end product and little or no concern is directed towards understanding, or better still, enabling and improving the mechanics of its delivery.

If we are to be more expansive and impactful in our approach to innovation then we need to engage it in its fullest sense and not just concern ourselves with input and output triggers. This requires we focus on identifying the factors that both comprise and, more importantly, help create successful innovation ecosystems.

making innovation work
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull visits Western Sydney University’s LaunchPad – an initiative to support startups and technology based businesses in Western Sydney. Credit: Sally Tsouta

Strengthening literacy in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) disciplines from a very early age affords us a bedrock on which to build workforce capacity and the intellectual capital necessary to generate and sustain innovation. Existing educational structures will need to adapt and change in a way that both responds to and supports the highly fluid and dynamic features of a thriving innovation ecosystem. Adjusting curriculums or modifying our expectations of graduate attributes, while important exercises, will not get us to where we need to be.


“The development of the skills-base required to drive sustainable innovation will both depend on and necessitate a very deliberate blurring of the borders between business, industry and education.”


According to last year’s ‘New Work Order‘ report by the Foundation for Young Australians, “70% of young Australians currently enter the workforce in jobs that will be radically affected by automation”. Add to this an expected average of 17 job changes for each of these new workers over the course of their working lives and it is clear that career narratives within the mooted ‘Ideas Boom‘ will be conditionally diverse and non-linear.

Disrupted, diverse and adaptive career pathways demand innovative responses from business as well as the education sector. The development of the skills-base required to drive sustainable innovation will both depend on and necessitate a very deliberate blurring of the borders between business, industry and education. The key to making this work is not so much an exercise in imposing demarcations on the role each of these groups perform collectively, rather it is centred upon letting go.

When circumstances conspire, Australia’s public research entities and business can produce remarkable innovations, as is evidenced by world leading inroads in, for example, solar technology, quantum computing and medical research; but we need to rely on more than circumstance and a dwindling linkage and research infrastructure funding pool.

While it is early days, universities and business are – in incubator, accelerator, and shared strategic (precinct) spaces – forming the beginnings of the deliberately diffused collaborative relationships needed to build sustainable innovation ecosystems. Encouragingly, the policy and funding frameworks put forward by the National Innovation and Science Agenda offer much to support this process.

The real determinant of our success in innovation will be the aspirations and behaviours of the emerging generation of workers. Diversity in career experience will be the attractor to study STEM disciplines, not curriculum reform. If we get it right, STEM skills will be seen as essential navigation tools in an as yet unknown adventure through a thriving innovation ecosystem where business, industry and universities coalesce to disrupt, diffuse and diversify in the interest of ideas.

Professor Barney Glover and Dr Andy Marks

Vice Chancellor and President of Western Sydney University Assistant Vice Chancellor (Strategy and Policy) of Western Sydney University 

Read next: Dr Cathy Foley, Deputy Director and Science Director of CSIRO’s Manufacturing Flagship on the Path to a ‘right-skilled’ workforce.

Spread the word: Help to grow Australia’s innovation knowhow! Share this piece using the social media buttons below.

Be part of the conversation: Share your ideas on innovating Australia in the comments section below. We’d love to hear from you!