The Generation STEM 2019-2022 evaluation report assesses three programs under Generation STEM, namely the STEM Community Partnerships Program (STEM CPP), Deadly in Generation STEM, and Generation STEM Links.
The evaluation used several methodologies, including surveys, interviews, case studies, program data, yarning sessions, and focus groups to understand how the programs have been implemented and to what degree they are achieving their goals.
Here's what we have discovered
Changing STEM perceptions
The STEM CPP has had a positive influence on students’ perception of STEM in their lives, resulting in a 24% net positive change among survey respondents. Similarly, students’ recognition of the importance of STEM has seen a 15% net positive change.
One of the elements of STEM CPP, the TAFE Taster course, has also brought positive results, with 75% of student attendees expressing satisfaction or extreme satisfaction.
Notably, STEM CPP had the greatest impact on students who initially had a low interest in STEM, as over half of them developed greater self-reported interest.
Female students in particular showed more interest in learning about STEM and gained a better understanding of the career opportunities available.
STEM-powering the future
Educators also felt that STEM CPP was helping students, with 97% of survey respondents reporting an increase in STEM education awareness.
The report also found that attending a showcase event (91%), visiting local STEM industries or worksites (89%), and completing inquiry-based learning projects (89%) were making the most significant difference.
For context, participating students get the opportunity to present the solutions of their inquiry-based research projects at the STEM CPP end-of-year showcases. Industry partners engaged in STEM CPP expressed their strong support, with 97% stating their willingness to recommend the program to their colleagues.
Strengthening knowledge and understanding of culture
Deadly in Generation STEM successfully ran experiences on Dharawal Country and Kamilaroi Country to engage and retain Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander students in STEM education and employment. Through hands-on activities and interaction with local knowledge holders, students developed a stronger connection to their culture and community.
Yarning sessions on Dharawal Country led to an improved understanding of Aboriginal STEM knowledge, boosting students' sense of belonging and well-being. Community stakeholders noticed increased confidence and interest in STEM fields among the students.
Internships as a recruitment pathway
Generation STEM Links provides paid internships to tertiary students in STEM businesses, facilitating their transition into STEM careers. In 2022, the program welcomed 29 student interns. Unlike unpaid work-integrated learning programs, Generation STEM Links offers a fully facilitated model to industry throughout the internship process.
The program received applications from historically under-represented backgrounds, including Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander peoples (2%), students with disabilities (3%), culturally diverse students (43%), and students from low socio-economic status areas (78%).
Survey responses from students highlighted the positive impact of the program, with the majority reporting improved core work-readiness skills (78%), the development of professional working relationships (67%), and a realistic understanding of the demands of STEM fields (67%).
The report indicates that 87% of students were offered further employment opportunities by their host businesses after their internships.
Next steps: Key recommendations
To enhance the Generation STEM initiative, recommendations include:
- Consider refining the STEM CPP program model to target, focus, and offer different activities for students who have different levels of interest in STEM.
- Focus STEM CPP resources on matching teachers with greatest interest/investment in achieving success from industry partnerships.
- Involve young people as champions and ambassadors of Deadly in Generation STEM to engage potential participants.
- Investigate benefits in increasing Generation STEM Links’ focus on attracting and matching TAFE students with placements to meet industry demand in manufacturing.
- Increase participation of different industry sectors involved in Generation STEM Links (e.g., biochemistry) to support expansion of placement opportunities.
Generation STEM aims to increase STEM education pursuit, improve NSW-based STEM employment rates, and enhance STEM literacy. These goals address challenges in Australia's STEM talent pipeline, considering the multiple influences on student decisions.
Despite obstacles like engaging under-represented groups, the evaluation report confirms the thoughtful design and successful implementation of STEM CPP, Deadly in Generation STEM and Generation STEM Links programs. With their current trajectory, these programs are on track to achieve their goals by 2027.