As schools across Australia roll out programs to enhance their students’ skills in problem-solving, critical thinking and creativity, other organisations are doing their part to prepare students for the future workforce.
The Foundation for Young Australians’ (FYA) is a non-profit organisation driving generational transformation by improving the learning outcomes and life opportunities of young Australians.
Its latest effort to achieve this is through the Young Social Pioneers (YSP) program – a six month incubator program that provides young entrepreneurs and change-makers the skills, networks and clarity of purpose that will ensure their ventures have the best shot at success.
One of these change-makers is Holly Kershaw, who runs the Fizzics Education Program.
The program delivers inspiring science programs to approximately 250,000 children each year via incursion and video conference across 400 schools and public spaces throughout Australia and around the world.
Kershaw told The Educator that YSP is making a meaningful difference to her program and assisting her on her journey to inspire greater engagement in science among children.
“YSP has been a fantastic professional and personal development experience, focusing not only on business but also me as a person,” she said.
“It has provided a number of tools and opportunities to look at how Fizzics runs, and how it can improve as a social enterprise – but also how I can help my team grow and succeed.”
Kershaw pointed out that FYA has also opened up a number of networks and avenues for exciting collaborations to expand her program’s impact in STEM education.
“As a result of the YSP program, I have a far greater understanding of how a social enterprise can create and deliver impact in a space,” she said.
“At the second touchpoint there was a really helpful session where we were able to talk through our initiatives with experts in their fields, and this provided some tangible ways that we could be working better with our customers to deepen our impact on science education at both student and teacher professional development levels.”
Helping children prepare for the future workforce
The YSP is also helping prepare students for the future workforce through workshops in problem-solving, critical thinking and creativity.
“It is widely acknowledged that STEM subjects teach kids ‘soft’ skills that are both useful and transferable, and that employers regard highly in a rapidly changing workforce,” she explained.
“These are things like problem solving and critical thinking, teamwork and creativity, and how to fail.”
Kershaw said her program has been running STEM workshops in classrooms with kids as young as 3 years old for 12 years, but said schools must ensure that teachers are appropriately trained as well.
“If we’re going to make a real impact in how science is delivered in primary schools, we need to do this with teachers too,” she said.
“Teachers are awesome – but at the primary level they often don’t have a background in science to allow them to do this.”
Energising professional development
Kershaw said YSP is currently working hard to engage teachers in exciting professional development to help them understand the scientific method – where a group creates an experimental aim, formulates a hypothesis and works through a procedure to obtain results that can be analysed and reported on – and how they can use low cost, easy to find materials to use it to do great stuff in their classrooms.
“There’s research to back up using teacher professional development to improve quality and quantity of science in schools – reports published by The Office of the Chief Scientist, the Australian Academy of Science and PwC all acknowledge that teachers need support to improve how they deliver STEM,” she said.
“If we can help teachers all over Australia deliver awesome science to their students, I believe we will be several steps closer to creating a future workforce with the skills to solve the problems of the future.”