The South Jerrabomberra Regional Jobs Precinct in the Queanbeyan-Palerang region will soon welcome a 35-ha business park, which will be driven by collaboration and innovation.
The location will also be home to Australia’s first Satellite Manufacturing Hub for larger Earth Observation satellites.
Recognising the local STEM skills needs and future opportunities, CSIRO has partnered with Queanbeyan-Palerang Regional Council and Yass Valley Council to launch STEM CPP in the area.
“STEM CPP is both a strategic and tactical approach to developing and retaining STEM talent in our region that can support the development of local and regional industry and future-focused economy,” says Martin Darcy, Manager of Business and Innovation at Queanbeyan-Palerang Regional Council.
“Our region is endowed with businesses requiring a STEM-focused workforce, and it’s critical to support the continued growth of these sectors.”
Building a local workforce to meet business needs
Thriving local STEM industries will attract talent to the region and, in turn, bring more business. This will ultimately attract new residents, jobs, and investment and ensure local students will want to stay.
“STEM CPP will provide an opportunity for businesses in cybersecurity, space, defence and high tech manufacturing sectors to influence what’s happening in schools,” says Department of Regional NSW Deputy Director, South East, Liz Dixon.
“To say, ‘In the next five years, these are the STEM jobs we need,’ and to make those connections with the school community so that everybody’s working to build a skilled pipeline of local talent. The benefits for industry, local students, and schools are significant,” she says.
Transforming STEM in school
Several local schools will participate in STEM CPP for the first time in 2023.
Year 7 to 10 students will take part in work experience and site visits and collaborate with industry partners on inquiry projects to solve local challenges, such as waste management, recycling and the circular economy, transport and community connection. They’ll present their solutions at the end-of-year showcase.
“STEM CPP is a mature and tested program operating in schools already,” says Martin.
“That gives us confidence that it has the necessary resources and experienced personnel to give it the best chance of success in our region.”
Martin also notes that the program relies on the development of relationships between schools and industry.
“In the current era of change in workforce dynamics, these relationships are key to creating a workforce built on specific industry needs rather than generalists,” he says.
And, while local schools can nurture STEM talent, industry can provide the valuable hands-on experience that brings the skills they’re learning in the classroom to life.
“This will encourage students to pursue a STEM career pathway in either tertiary study or continue directly into the workforce,” Martin adds.
Community partnerships create a sustainable future
Through STEM CPP, students have a chance to learn from and connect with local industries and professionals. They’ll be able to discover all the different STEM careers available to them.
“Once you build that knowledge base, kids tell other kids, and, hopefully, there will be a ripple effect. So, students won’t just be thinking about being a police officer, doctor, or nurse,” says Liz.
“They’ll think of rocket scientists, defence analysts and cyber security specialists. Roles that probably haven’t entered their sphere of consciousness yet. Without those relationships between STEM CPP, industry and schools being in place, the opportunities aren’t there.
“We need kids to have a fire in their belly. I think many have lost it because they can’t see the end goal. I hope the program will create those light bulb moments so they can envision their future,” concludes Liz.