20/03/2018 - 13:41

Scitech prioritises Stem strategy

20/03/2018 - 13:41

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Scitech has partnered with Shell in an effort to promote science, technology, engineering, and maths (Stem) related subjects to high school students.

Scitech prioritises Stem strategy
Deborah Hancock says part of Scitech’s mission is to encourage a broader uptake of Stem subjects. Photo: Attila Csaszar

Energy company Shell has brought its global education program, NXplorers, to Australia for the first time, signing a seven-figure, three-year partnership with Scitech for a statewide rollout to high schools.

Aimed at students aged 14 to 19 years old and delivered by Scitech’s professional learning team, the Stem-focused pilot program will run across five schools in 2018, expanding to 15 schools by 2020.

Given its activity off the coast of Broome, where its Prelude platform is the world’s largest floating gas facility, Shell is increasing its involvement in the Broome community, with NXplorers expected to grow that interaction.

Students in Broome and Perth will be challenged with identifying real-world, local problems that address water, food, energy, and security.

Shell Australia country chair Zoe Yujnovich said the world needed new ways to use cleaner energy more efficiently and the program addressed that need.

“We want to equip more young people with the knowledge, understanding and skills required to tackle tomorrow’s energy challenges, today,” she said.

NXplorers has already been rolled out in the Netherlands, Nigeria, Ghana, Singapore, Russia, India, Brazil, and Indonesia.

The program aligns with Scitech chief executive Deborah Hancock’s intention for the partly government-funded not for profit to attract new demographics and remain at the forefront of Stem engagement.

Ms Hancock joined Scitech mid-last year, leaving her previous role as chief executive at the Cairns Chamber of Commerce. She said her focus was around collaboration, engagement and developing high-performance teams.

“The board that I work for have tasked me with digitising Scitech, our delivery, and our engagement with our key stakeholders and everything that we do, contemporising what we do as a business,” Ms Hancock told Business News.

With its lease expiring in 2023, Scitech is planning to relocate from City West to the Perth Cultural Centre in the coming years.

Ms Hancock said the plan to move came about due to both the expiry of its lease and as part of its strategy to update its offerings.

“We’re looking at new means of delivery and new services; so for example we want to have a state-of-the-art science centre and we want to be demonstrating and showcasing the best that WA has to offer in the Stem space,” she said.

“We do the four to 12-year-old market particularly well right now; what we want to do is take those learnings and expertise, and the application of Stem outcomes that apply to curriculum, and apply that to new demographics.

“So for example the youth market; we are just not cool for teenagers, so we need to become cool for teenagers and have a whole new value proposition for them.”

Encouraging young girls, indigenous people, and people from low socio-economic areas to take up an interest in Stem will be a focus for Scitech

“If we don’t get this right in the future - if we’re seeing growth in jobs that require Stem skills and we’re seeing low participation rates in girls in Stem, indigenous people, and kids that are already disadvantaged because they’re from low socio-economic areas - we’re going to see in the next generation, in the next 10 years, a worsening of socio-economic problems,” Ms Hancock said.

Another focus area would be upskilling people already in the workforce by engaging with industry and the VET sector.

“We want to make sure, rather than having displaced employees, we see change coming and we prepare as a community and we provide people with the skills to transition into continued work,” Ms Hancock said.

She said substantial investment had been put towards looking at the future potential of Stem roles.  

A report by global professional services firm PwC found that 75 per cent of the fastest growing occupations required Stem skills, with automation eating into demand for non-Stem positions.

The report said if 1 per cent of the national workforce shifted to Stem roles, it would boost GDP by $57.4 billion over the next 20 years.

Ms Hancock said Scitech was in the process of designing an upskilling program for the workforce. “We’ve been having discussions with Rio Tinto, which has just invested $2 million in the VET sector, with Tafe (towards Stem training)” she said.

“We are having conversations about how we can work with them and maybe take a crowd funding approach to a whole group of different operators in this area; so Stem providers, government, industry, Scitech, all of us coming together and working together.”

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