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STEM professionals need facetime with Aussie students

Monday, 12 Sep 2016

IA

Industry complains but doesn’t address grassroots skills issue.

More STEM professionals need to take time out to showcase what they do to students in Australian schools, with CSIRO and Ai Group leading the search for volunteers.

CSIRO’s partnership with Ai Group is through the Scientists and Mathematicians in Schools (SMiS) program, which links practising scientists, mathematicians, engineers and technology (STEM) professionals with students.

The aim is to generate interest and motivation in STEM careers through real-world exposure, but it seems industry and corporates aren’t participating.

“Only 13 per cent of STEM professionals [participating in the program] come from industry and corporate businesses,” Ai Group said.

This is an issue because industry is often one of the first and most vocal critics of the lack of business-ready STEM skills coming through Australia’s educational institutions.

AiGroup Chief Executive Innes Willox believed industry could “do more” to support the Australian economy and its skills pipeline.

According to the Ai Group and the Office of the Chief Scientist's STEM Skills Partnerships program, 75 percent of the fastest growing occupations require STEM knowledge and skills but at the moment the number of students coming out of university is not keeping up with this demand.

“Our relative decline of STEM skills is holding back our national economy and causing real frustration for employers,” Willox said.

“Our evidence shows that bringing real-life, hands-on STEM into classrooms results in students being more engaged in these subjects,” CSIRO education manager Mary Mulcahy added.

“Letting students know about the diversity of careers available to them is also important – jobs from accounting, construction, nursing to hair dressing all use STEM skills.”

Cisco, an Ai Group member, is one of the few corporates involved in the program.

Cisco Australia vice president and program mentor Sae Kwon said it was a real privilege to give back to the students that will be tomorrow’s great innovators.

“The kids are fascinated that I talk to them from other countries like Singapore over video conference, Kwon said.

“It’s great to be able to talk about the cool jobs available, the great people you get to meet, the many countries you can visit and all the fun you can have working in STEM.

“I was certainly not aware of the cool jobs that exists in STEM until I started working in the field.”

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