Studies show that changing just 1% of the Australian workforce into STEM roles would add more than $57bn to Australia’s GDP.
The technology sector alone currently contributes about $122bn to the Australian economy, which is around 6.6% of the country’s GDP. By 2030, that contribution is expected to grow to about $207bn per year, with the right policy settings and digital skills training.
However, these industries are not seeing the kind of uptake they would like. In July, a national study among Australian women revealed a 50% drop off in girls studying STEM beyond high school.
To improve STEM opportunities for young people, the NSW Government has launched a $13.5m program to incentivise more than 500 qualified STEM teachers to work in the state’s classrooms.
NSW Education Minister, Sarah Mitchell, said the plan to recruit ‘standout’ international and interstate teachers was part of a broader strategy to boost and sustain a high-quality teaching workforce.
“There are more than 91,000 teachers employed in NSW public schools, and we are opening the door to even more expert teachers looking to teach in our great system,” Mitchell said.
“Our education system is amongst the largest in the world, and I am confident that by opening the door to more high-quality teachers from other jurisdictions, we will also become amongst the highest performing in the world.”
The initiative builds upon the NSW Government’s recently announced new employment-based pathways into teaching and aims to further increase the state’s supply of quality teachers.
“NSW is an incredible place to live and work - attracting the best teachers from around the world will help turbocharge our recovery from the pandemic by ensuring our students have access to more high-quality teachers,” Mitchell said.
“Our state boasts the biggest education system in the southern hemisphere and we should be using that position to attract the best teachers from around the country and the world to help our students get ahead.”
The overseas focus will be on countries whose teachers have high potential to succeed in the NSW public school system, such as Canada and the UK.
Under the initiative, 460 teachers will be recruited between 2022-23, and 100 in 2023-24.
Working alongside other agencies, including the Federal Government, the Department of Education will help successful recruits with relocation and other support including Australian border control measures, quarantine and visa requirements.
However, the NSW Teachers Federation (NSWTF) says the government’s announcement will not address the teacher shortage crisis facing NSW public schools.
“This announcement does not reflect the scale of the crisis nor propose solutions that will adequately address it,” NSWTF president, Angelo Gavrielatos, told The Educator.
“On current projections, approximately 12,000 additional teachers will be needed in the next decade just to meet enrolment growth – that is 20% more.”
Gavrielatos said this rises to almost 14,000 more teachers if the student teacher ratio falls to the national average rather than where it is now as the highest in the nation.
“Big problems require big solutions, not tinkering around the edges. If we don’t pay teachers what they are worth, we won’t get the teachers we need.”