Inspiring Australia has joined the Advisory Group for the STEM Network, a coalition of leading businesses with a commitment to advancing science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) education in Australia. With the STEM skills shortage identified as a major risk for Australia’s future economic and social wellbeing, the group wishes to use its collective voice and national networks to create a coordinated approach to business engagement on this issue.
Led by Westpac, the group includes senior representatives from the Navegar Institute, Tata Consulting, IBM, PwC, Deloitte and Telstra. They have agreed to collaborate as a network in partnership with CSIRO, the Office of the Chief Scientist and government agencies in order to amplify the impact of dozens of business-led interventions designed to improve Australia’s STEM skills shortfall.
Westpac’s Chief Information Officer, Consumer Bank, Ana Cammaroto, says that it’s critical that businesses work together with education and policy experts to address an extremely complex issue.
“As leading businesses, it’s in our interests to ensure a strong pipeline of STEM graduates capable of performing the jobs of the future, but the issues are complex and involve multiple stakeholders,” she said. “Millions of dollars are spent across the STEM Network and also by government in support of worthwhile programs established to improve STEM learning and teaching. But are we making a real difference as a result of this investment?”
Ms Cammaroto said that the business sector needs to collaborate more effectively to ensure that the financial and in-kind support it provides makes an impact and enhances programs established by public sector education and policy experts.
“Over many years, we have seen dozens of programs flourish with support from industry and business, yet education standards continue to decline. The STEM Network would like to work more closely with government to identify and support programs that have proven to be effective,” she said.
“Our objective is to develop a strategic voice in order to create more impact that will improve outcomes for both students and teachers,” she explained, adding that the influential group of business leaders who form this Network have links through their customers to communities across the country.
The STEM Network Advisory Group has identified two key actions for the coming months.
First, the group will support CSIRO’s Science and Mathematicians in Schools program, with member companies agreeing to promote the initiative as a volunteering option for suitably qualified staff. This action will help extend programs developed by CSIRO with support from the Australian Federal Government and provide an overarching framework for bringing industry into the mix.
“STEM Network partners are excited to help CSIRO build teacher and student confidence through introducing them to real world STEM careers and industry issues,” said Ms Cammaroto.
STEM Network partners will also be developing their own STEM Action Plans whereby each member company will commit to developing a strategy for how it plans to enable STEM careers, both internally and in partnership with external stakeholders. The STEM Network Advisory Group members are now in the process of appointing STEM leads in their individual organisations and establishing an operating and governance framework for the Network so it can develop initiatives in partnership with key government agencies and other education stakeholders.
For more information about the STEM Network and its future directions please get in touch via firstname.lastname@example.org.
Jackie Randles is Manager Inspiring Australia (NSW).