Futureproofing Australia’s workforce with STEM
STEM is often mistaken for coding and technology. But STEM in itself is a way of thinking, it is teaching children problem solving skills, it is more about encouraging children to create something and solve problems along the creation process. With the changing job environment and the prerequisites for the changing workforce, job titles are often evolving. With more work focused on independent problem solving and technology, STEM is an essential way to think of how the future generation, not just processes information but also is equipped with the right amount of skills for the ever changing 21st century workforce.
The 21st Century Workforce
A growing body of evidence has highlighted the importance of ‘future proofing’ the Australian workforce amidst evolving economic, social,technological and environmental changes. professionals in the workforce have a lot to say about the varying STEM roles and why it is important in the education sector.
“Modelling by PwC finds that shifting just 1 percent of the workforce into STEM roles would add $57.4 billion to GDP (net present value over 20 years).” PwC
Countries that lead in STEM education also rank high on innovation. Germany, ranks third in the OECD in terms of graduates in STEM fields, whereas the US ranks 33rd.Sweden, which has a reputation for successfully commercializing innovative research, including seat belts, pacemakers and Skype, has a STEM-focused education system. 90 percent of Swedish students attend highly digitally equipped schools and each year several thousand teachers attend national STEM-focused training centers.
“By developing the right infrastructure and teaching capabilities, these countries are growing a workforce of the future that has the core skills and competencies for driving innovation”
Anita Trenwith (Manager, UniSA Connect Programs,University of South Australia) – “Quality teachers make all the difference, and it is not just about their qualifications. The best teachers have the ability to get the information across in a way the students can relate to and understand. This skill is often learnt on the job and good mentoring can help fast track the skills to deliver the content at a suitable level and in an engaging way. Raising the public profile of teaching as a profession would possibly help attract the right people into this career pathway.”
In 2015 STEM was given almost $65 Million for the professional development of teachers and to pay for specialized STEM programs in classrooms. State Governments have also contributed significant amounts of money and resources to the program.
While there are a number of initiatives provided from the Australian government, teachers need to be given the support to be able to teach STEM skills in the classroom.
STEM is still at the top of the 2018-19 Budget with $4.5 million for women in STEM initiatives. It is not all good news for STEM though, with the STEM graduate budget still struggling to get approval from the commonwealth.
STA CEO Kylie Walker said “Australia will need many more people equipped with STEM skills in our workforce to compete internationally. This short-term saving will be a loss for future generations.”
With that in mind, it is important for the teacher and educators to be equipped with the knowledge and skills to improve Australian standards in STEM education.