Nick Whyte is a front-end engineer at Canva. He is also one of the industry mentors for the CSIRO STEM Community Partnerships Program (STEM CPP), part of the Generation STEM initiative, aiming to inspire students to follow their passions in STEM.
Late last year, Canva, a STEM CPP industry partner since 2020, organised a site visit for Year 9 and 10 students from LaSalle Catholic College Bankstown.
The activity helped to pull back the curtain on working in tech, showing students the diversity of the industry.
“The site visit gave students a behind-the-scenes into Canva,” says Nick. “They wouldn’t know about all the different opportunities otherwise.”
The students toured the Canva office, located in Sydney’s Tech Central, and learned about what it was like to work there. They also heard from four Canva employees across product management, design and engineering about their projects, passions, and professional journeys.
“The goal was to give an all-round representation of roles in a tech company. We wanted it to apply to different interests, as there might be more creative students, so design roles might be better suited to them,” Nick explains.
Shaping the future of STEM learning
These students already use Canva at school as the NSW Department of Education made Canva for Education available to all NSW public schools, helping to spark interest and improve learning outcomes.
Craig Apted, a Science Teacher from LaSalle Catholic College Bankstown, participated in STEM CPP for the first time in 2022.
“Our students got to work together with Canva, our industry partner, and do a site visit to their office. It was an amazing experience for them,” he says.“It has opened their eyes to opportunities. This is what drives and motivates students in their selection of different subjects and career choices.”
Students need to see real-world examples
At Canva, every employee is entitled to three days of volunteer leave each year to support causes close to them. For Nick, that’s supporting the next generation by connecting them to the technology-based opportunities of the future.
“I’m passionate about getting students interested in engineering,” he says, adding, “We need to get young people excited about a future in tech.”
Although Nick was always interested in coding, he only got into software development because his older friend in high school started building a website. That experience got Nick captivated enough to learn on his own.
“If I didn’t have the opportunity to see and experience that, I probably wouldn’t be doing software today,” he says.
“STEM CPP is about allowing students to see, get interested and ask themselves whether it’s something they’d like to do.”
Nick adds that it’s vital for organisations to plant the seed early. “If students are interested in your work, you’ll have a better time attracting talent.
“Participating in STEM CPP is good for you as an employer, and it’s a good way to give back,” he concludes.
STEM CPP creates strong partnerships between local schools and industry, with the goal of highlighting local STEM careers and opportunities, and providing avenues for students to develop their STEM skills in an engaging and rewarding way.
Generation STEM is managed by CSIRO and made possible by the NSW Government’s $25 million endowment to the Science and Industry Endowment Fund (SIEF).