As the Federal Government’s science and innovation agenda takes shape, schools are bolstering science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) opportunities by forging relationships with businesses.
A South Australian Education Department director says schools in his state are taking a community-wide approach to improving STEM learning, forging partnerships with businesses and other organisations.
Adam Box, the department’s regional director in the south-east of the state, told the ABC that it is becoming increasingly important that students are skilled for jobs which might evolve in the next few years.
“It's a holistic approach to STEM across the community,” he said.
“If we can do that properly, then what we're actually hoping is that then the unemployment rate ... will actually take care of itself because we're going to have kids that will be prepared to think outside the square.”
Box recently visited the Canadian city of Ontario where he saw this collaborative approach in action.
He said that by working together and using education as “a vehicle to lift expectations”, the city had lifted a million people out of poverty.
Box said those same strategies were now being tested at schools in his state’s south-east and he hoped they could become a model for other communities across the state and beyond.
The idea of making stronger connections between business and schools has been embraced by many schools in Australia as they endeavour to make significant inroads into addressing the many and complex needs of their students.
Another concept aimed at providing students with new career pathways is taking shape in In Victoria, where the opening of two new Pathways to Technology (P-TECH) schools is catering for students interested in a STEM career.
P-TECH, a school model developed in the US city of Brooklyn, is a partnership between education, industry and community that guarantees a diploma and IBM-facilitated job interview at the conclusion of a six-year course.
The P-TECH model is being unveiled as the Federal Government moves ahead with its national innovation and science agenda, a push to make Australia a more competitive 21stcentury economy.
Nicholas Wyman, CEO of Skilling Australia Foundation, told The Educator in January that the two new schools will provide students with the skills they need but in a streamlined and exciting way that negates the need for lengthy apprenticeships.
“In Geelong, youth unemployment pushing towards 20%, so it’s absolutely critical for the students of the region to be prepared well beyond school,” Wyman said.
“All of the Year 9 students are enrolled in the learning experiences over the next 12 months, and this will be an opportunity for them to meet the employers and get involved in some hands-on project-based activity.”