As part of the National Career Education Strategy, CSIRO and the Commonwealth Department of Employment, Skills, Small and Family Business collaborated to pilot the delivery of innovative work experience opportunities for high school students using online collaboration tools.

The program brought students from across Australia together virtually to work in small groups to take on STEM-based work experience projects with industry experts. Students gained valuable experience in STEM and new ways of working, while developing crucial life skills, such as teamwork, communication, negotiation and resilience.

Replicating the way CSIRO staff work every day, 57 Virtual Work Experience Program students were placed in groups of up to six and worked with their industry supervisor and student team members using collaboration platforms and video conferencing. The program tested two different contact working models and offered students STEM-based work experience in one project from 15 STEM disciplines of interest.

A rigorous evaluation process was completed as part of the program pilot [pdf · 1mb]. These findings demonstrated the value of Virtual Work Experience in providing STEM-based opportunities for students, particularly in regional and remote areas of Australia.

[Music plays and image appears of an aerial view of Tennant Creek and then the camera zooms in on a rock formation on the ground and then the camera zooms out to show a car driving past the rocks]

 

[Image changes to show three female students walking past the Tennant Creek High School sign and then the image shows a rear view of the three students walking towards the school building]

 

Sharon Kurniawan: In the virtual work experience programme we were looking at medical image processing using Anaconda and Python and Jupiter Notebook and things like that.

 

[Images move through of two students working on a computer together, a close-up view of the computer screen, and then Chin Huan talking to the camera and text appears: Chin Huan, Science & Mathematics Teacher, Tennant Creek High School]

 

Chin Huan: Our kids are given the opportunities just as any other kids across Australia, regardless of whether you are from the city or from a remote town like Tennant Creek.

 

[Images move through of the students entering a room and then working on the computer]

 

Robelyn-Joy Lanas: The main things that we’ve learned during the week was like different types of playing the basics of Python.

 

[Image changes to show three of the students around a computer in a room]

 

I also got to work with the people in CSIRO.

 

[Image changes to show Robelyn-Joy sitting in a chair on a verandah talking to the camera and text appears: Robelyn-Joy Lanas, Tennant Hills High School]

 

I mean it was very fun. It was really interesting.

 

[Images move through to show Rob Hollow walking down a corridor, entering a room, talking to the camera, sitting in a chair talking, and then working on a computer and text appears: Rob Hollow, Education & Science Outreach Specialist, Astronomy and Space Science, CSIRO]

 

Rob Hollow: The virtual work experience programme is a really exciting concept that allows students in regional and remote areas access to a really worthwhile and engaging experience around future career paths without physically having to come into a city or a headquarters like us here in Sydney.

 

[Image changes to show a goat grazing outside a house, and then the image changes to show a sign on the house wall which reads “Learn from yesterday, live for today, hope for tomorrow]

 

Kate Barrett: I learned a lot about pulsars because I didn’t know heaps about them.

 

[Image changes to show a rear view of Kate working on a laptop, and then images move through of the laptop screen she is working on, and then Kate talking to the camera and text appears: Kate Barrett, Brisbane School of Distance Education]

 

We looked at pulsars in binary systems, so all the different ways that they can interact with other stars and we looked at how they’re formed. I learned a bit about scale.

 

[Image changes to show a rear view of Kate working at her laptop]

 

I thought that there’d be a lot sort of within a 100 light years but they’re very spread out.

 

[Image changes to show Luke looking at Rob Hollow talking on the laptop screen]

 

Luke Bosnic: Right now, when you’re in school you don’t really get to choose where you live.

 

[Image changes to show a close view of Luke’s face as he works on the laptop and then the camera zooms in on Rob Hollow talking on the laptop screen]

 

You just have to, you know, you live where your parents live. It’s not like I could just buy a house in the city and live there.

 

[Image changes to show Luke sitting in a chair and talking to the camera and then the image changes to show a side facing view of Luke talking and text appears: Luke Bosnic, Peninsular Grammar]

 

So, it would be really unfair. Everyone should have the same opportunities.

 

[Image changes to show Sophie Hawke talking to the camera and text appears: Sophie Hawke, Tennant Creek High School]

 

Sophie Hawke: We did have a lot of connection errors.

 

[Image changes to show Kaitlyn Fraser sitting on a bench talking to the camera and text appears: Kaitlyn Fraser, Tennant Creek High School]

 

Kaitlyn Fraser: Sometimes we would have problems with the Wi-Fi or connection but…

 

[Image changes to show Sharon sitting in a chair in a classroom talking to the camera and text appears: Sharon Kurniawan, Tennant Creek High School]

 

Sharon Kurniawan: You can’t really do anything about it and like you have to work with what you’ve got.

 

[Image changes to show Rob working on a computer and then the image changes to show a close view of Rob talking to the camera and then the camera zooms out on Rob talking]

 

Rob Hollow: Students in these regional remote areas, you know they might be in a very small school, they might be in a central school where there’s only a handful of students in their year level.

 

[Camera zooms in on Rob talking and then the image changes to show a profile view of Luke and then the image changes to show Rob sitting in a chair talking to the camera]

 

By having a virtual experience like this where they can come online, interact with other keen students from other, other areas, it provides an opportunity that otherwise they’re denied.

 

[Image changes to show Dr Susmita Saha sitting in a chair talking to the camera and text appears: Dr Susmita Saha, Postdoctoral Fellow, Australian e-Health Research Centre, CSIRO]

 

Dr Susmita Saha: It was really encouraging for us to know that such remote schools are really interested about STEM.

 

[Image changes to show Sophie and Robelyn-Joy talking and smiling and then the image changes to show Susmita talking on the screen]

 

The students actually showed a great level of enthusiasm but I should say that I enjoyed that too.

 

[Image changes to show Susmita talking to the camera]

 

So, that was actually encouraging both ways.

[Music plays and the CSIRO logo and text appears on a blue screen: CSIRO, Australia’s innovation catalyst]

 

 

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