Criterion Conferences

Driving student engagement in STEM through industry partnerships


Courtesy of Criterion Conferences

Australia is producing less STEM graduates now than it was 10 years ago.

The findings, published in Business Insider Australia, revealed the growing challenge for Australian companies to find staff with suitable skills.

While 75% of the fastest growing occupations require STEM related skills, the proportion of Australian graduates with qualifications in science, technology, engineering and mathematics fields has fallen over the past decade.

Both educators and employers alike are eager to engage students and equip them with the skills needed to succeed in STEM disciplines. 

While educators seek to propel students into much needed fields about which they are passionate, industry seeks to elevate the skills and aspirations of the future workforce. 

Industry partnerships with education have been proven to assist in the engagement with STEM education in schools and the subsequent uptake of STEM related disciplines. 

In Engineers Australia’s submission to the STEM Partnerships Forum, they cite as one of their most successful industry partnerships; “The portal provides teachers, parents and students access to Australia’s first truly national online database of STEM based activities.”

These activities include, but are not limited to, excursions, after school and vacation care activities. 

Engineers Australia attributes the success of this initiative to their collaboration with the Office of the Chief Scientist to establish a steering committee of industry partners, government, education and academia. 

The support of these partners also extended to the development of the portal itself with their collective experience, and support through their individual networks to promote participation and awareness. 

“There is no lack of enthusiasm from industry to support school partnerships and programs. The challenge is that there are many different programs at national, state and local levels, which target different aspects of STEM education, at different levels and age groups. Industry is paralysed by choice, which leads to a need for a consolidated, coordinated national approach. This would encourage broader participation and deliver measurable outcomes which will, in turn, lead to longer term engagement and involvement by industry.”

On a school level, there have been a number of notable approaches which have helped engage students.

In response to the industry’s need for more youth qualified in STEM subjects, iSTEM was established in the Hunter region through collaboration between education, industry and local STEM teachers. 

The curriculum for year 9 and 10 students supports the delivery of STEM subjects in an integrated way. “The elective subject provides students with curriculum to support the most up to date technologies including 3D printers, virtual reality, drones, robotics and a range of intelligent systems,” wrote the Education Council in their Optimising Stem Industry-School Partnerships report. 

iSTEM has now been rolled out to over 235 schools across NSW. The results are positive, with schools showing a 19% higher engagement in STEM subjects from 2010 to 2017, compared to a 0.5% decrease for all NSW schools. 

Criterion Conference’s Advancing STEM Education Roadshow, running in Sydney on August 13th, Brisbane on August 26th, Adelaide on August 27th and Melbourne on August 28th, provides leading strategies to build partnerships with industry, as well as construct the right lesson plans to encourage cross- curricular STEM and drive staff engagement.

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