Recognising the local skills needs and population growth, CSIRO partnered with Regional Development Australia (RDA) Central Coast earlier this year to launch the STEM Community Partnerships Program (STEM CPP).
Across Australia, the demand for science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) skills continues to be high, growing almost two times faster than for other jobs.
Central Coast is home to several global brands, with food and beverage manufacturing contributing $300 million to the local economy. Its other key growth industries include construction, healthcare and tourism. By 2036, the Central Coast is expected to create 24,674 additional jobs.
To keep up with this growth, there is a need for schools, local businesses and other organisations to work together to ensure that businesses have access to a pool of STEM-skilled workers.
Central Coast Aero Club signed up as a STEM CPP industry partner because it was looking strengthen the STEM pipeline on the Central Coast and reverse local youth unemployment.
“We want to inspire youth to enter our industry in one of the many varied pathways, whether on the operational flying side, the engineering side or administration and management,” said Andrew Smith, Central Coast Aero Club General Manager.
“We find STEM CPP dovetails perfectly with our requirements. We often have students start flight training after a STEM CPP site visit.
“The Aero Club is a great asset for the Central Coast, as it provides an outlet for youths with a passion for aviation. And the STEM CPP program helps to highlight this,” said Smith.
Experiences to connect students to real-world STEM
Wyong High School is one of STEM CPP’s participating schools. Its Year 9 and 10 students recently went on a site visit to Central Coast Aero Club, where they toured the airport and experienced a computer-simulated flight. The visit offered students a chance to see STEM in the real world.
The students also visited Brian Hilton Motor Group, another STEM CPP partner, where they saw the latest hybrid and electric vehicles, learned about the future of electric cars, and heard from industry professionals about their career journeys.
Tom Carlson, a Wyong High School Science Teacher, said the program allows the students to witness real-world and local applications of STEM-related industries in the community.
“These experiences have shaped the future careers of some of our students, with them engaging with these local industries to pursue experiences beyond school.
“They have also realised the extent and importance of STEM. Through the opportunities, they can engage with related fields allowing for meaningful, real-life connections,” said Carlson.
Carlson also said the students enjoy practical experiences, such as site visits to local industries and the capacity to understand why STEM is such a vital part of society.
“Being part of the STEM CPP is a privilege for our school. I would recommend to anyone interested to take the opportunity,” Carlson said. “The program has enabled students to see the world beyond the classroom.”
Thomas Baker, a participating student, said it was interesting to see all the different STEM opportunities on the Central Coast and hear from experts. “Instead of sitting in a classroom and being told what careers we can do, we’re actually seeing people who have lived that experience.”
Showcasing STEM pathways to Central Coast students
CSIRO Director of Education and Outreach Ruth Carr highlighted the importance of local businesses, schools and other organisations coming together to showcase local STEM pathways to students.
“Students are in a unique position to take advantage of current and emerging job opportunities and career pathways on the Central Coast, and the experiences provided by our industry partners play a key role in enabling students to discover and pursue their passion for STEM,” Carr said.
The Central Coast region is expected to increase by 95,250 people between 2016 and 2041. This growth offers an opportunity for local industry and schools to work collaboratively to build the future STEM pipeline.
Brian Hilton Motor Group People and Culture Manager Dan Cummins said more companies need to invest in young students to ensure they are aware of local opportunities.
“We all know of the difficulties in attracting and retaining staff across the country, now more than ever. Connecting with the next generation is critical to building a future workforce,” said Cummins.