This year, funding from the Toyota Community Trust impacted more than 800 In2science secondary school students, building their enthusiasm for STEM and encouraging the pursuit of STEM careers, by placing 37 mentors in six schools in the western suburbs of Melbourne.
The Toyota Community Trust was established in 2017 to honour the legacy of Toyota car manufacturing in Australia which concluded that year in Altona, Melbourne. The Trust was endowed with $32 million of which the interest every year goes towards STEM education initiatives in the west of Melbourne.
At the recent In2science Annual Awards ceremony, Toyota Community Trust Board Director, Mr Damien Bayard remarked that In2science stood out to the Board of directors of the Trust as it delivers a three-way benefit – to high school students, teachers and university students.
In addition to helping In2science extend its reach through more mentor placements in 2019, funding was also used to provide training to mentors, which enabled them to carry out career conversations with small groups of school students in the classroom. Mentors who participated in this pilot reported that facilitating these conversations was something they had always wanted to do, however they had not had the training or found a mechanism to do it.
Seeking to equip mentors with the toolkit and mechanism to facilitate conversations about STEM careers, In2science selected and trained three mentors to participate in this pilot. Mentors liaised with the classroom teachers to select groups of students to participate and then guided them through a range of activities including:
- reflecting on their interests/skills and understand how science and maths relate to these
- identifying role models in their own life and how science and maths relate to those careers
- identifying study options that relate to their current interests/skills
- identifying the VCE subjects necessary to pursue the above courses
- gaining a clearer picture of jobs, careers and study pathways through ‘Accessing their Allies’, and
- identifying their networks.
The ‘STEM career sessions’ were piloted in Year 7 – 9 classrooms with 17 students (up to eight students per group) at Footscray City College, Laverton P-12 College, Bayside P-12 College. The impact on students’ knowledge and attitudes towards STEM careers was profoundly positive. One year 7 student noted, “I didn’t realise that science skills could be used in almost every job”. Another said, “There are so many more job options available I had never thought of before.” Despite the STEM focus, students also gained an appreciation for the breadth of courses available in higher education with one student quipping, “Wow, you can do arts and dance through university?”
As with all In2science’s STEM outreach activities, the aim is to provide maximum benefit to students, mentors and teachers. This initiative was no exception. Students experienced numerous benefits including: gaining confidence in planning and striving for a STEM-based career, acquiring practical advice on preparing resumes and identifying people within their networks that may be able to provide advice and assistance on career planning.
Mentors were challenged, but ultimately felt empowered to facilitate career discussions and thrived on the deeper connections they build with the students who participated.
Teachers appreciated the mentors’ input into career education and were grateful that mentors were able to introduce these ideas in such an informal and fun way. Importantly, mentors were also able to build upon the discussions about jobs in STEM that had already taken place in the classroom.
The great success of this pilot has encouraged In2science to roll out ‘STEM career sessions’ more broadly across more In2science schools. For more information about ‘STEM career sessions’ or In2science in general, please contact In2science Program Manager, Robyn Gamble.
In2science is grateful for the generous support of Toyota Community Trust.