Celebrating 15 years of STEM Professionals in Schools
By Kirsten Rose
It is my great honour to write this guest blog to mark the 15-year anniversary of our STEM Professionals in Schools program.
It’s a fantastic initiative that creates partnerships between teachers and STEM professionals to show students what a career in STEM could look like for them. It also gives students the opportunity to meet people who are currently working in STEM-related jobs.
What began as a six-month pilot in 2007 has turned into a sustained program that has supported more than 8000 partnerships, with the number of students reached being many multiples higher. Currently, we have more than 1000 partnerships involving 800 schools, 350 organisations, and more than 570,000 students across every state in Australia.
What an achievement!
Programs like this one engage students with STEM on a whole new level. They create opportunities that may otherwise be absent and have the potential to light a spark of curiosity that will lead students through to their future career.
The impact of this work is significant. We know STEM skills will be vital to the future prosperity and resilience of Australia, and we know we need more of them. Demand for STEM jobs is growing almost twice as fast as other jobs and that trend is set to continue. But student participation in STEM subjects has been declining in Australia over the last decade. Some groups – particularly girls, Indigenous Australians and those in regional and remote areas – have even lower participation rates.
Australia needs more STEM skills to help us invent the kind of future we want to live in. And we need everyone to be part of that – regardless of gender, background, or location. That’s why 30 per cent of STEM Professionals in Schools partnerships take place in regional or remote areas, and more than 40 per cent of our volunteers are female.
Thirty-one schools participating in the program also have a higher than 25 per cent representation of Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander students, and several partnerships have a strong Indigenous focus. For example, as part of the program, Clontarf Aboriginal College in Perth recently visited the archaeology labs at the University of Western Australia for a National Science Week activity that combined culture with science.
This incredible program is funded by the Department of Education and delivered by our Education and Outreach team, together with an army of teachers and STEM volunteers. More than 50 of those volunteers have supported the program since its inception, including 14 of our people.
I want to offer my sincere thanks and congratulations to our Education and Outreach team and the amazing volunteers who support this program – you are inspiring the next generation of Australia’s STEM leaders with your work. There can be nothing more worthwhile or fulfilling than that.
On top of this, our amazing Education and Outreach team run a number of other programs for students in STEM, including a Virtual Work Experience program, a Digital Careers program, and a Generation STEM program targeted at Year 10 pupils. They also run programs for Indigenous students including the Young Indigenous Women’s STEM Academy.
If you’re not familiar with this team or the important work they do, I encourage you to read up. It’s all part of a tireless effort to build a new pipeline of STEM professionals for Australia and ultimately unlock a better future for us all.
There are many ways you can lend your time and expertise to these programs. This includes becoming a STEM professional volunteer, virtually hosting a work experience student, or supporting a teacher. I encourage you to take a few minutes to look over the ways you can be involved and email our Education and Outreach team for more information.
Once again, I want to congratulate this team on their incredible work, particularly on reaching an impressive milestone of 15 years of STEM Professionals in Schools. Bravo!
Building future skills is an important part of our role as the national science agency, and fundamental to our ability to deliver on our purpose. You are making a big contribution to the future of Australia.