By Rachael McCullough
In2science hosted a dynamic Industry-Schools Partnerships Forum at The University of Melbourne on Thursday 13th of September. With attendees from Government, STEM industry, universities, and schools across the Melbourne area, the forum was testament to the growing interest in collaborative STEM partnerships between schools and industry.
Megan Mundy, In2science Director, opened the evening and emphasised the importance of partnerships for engaging students in all disciplines of STEM during their formative years in high school.
Dr. Amanda Caples, Victoria’s Lead Scientist, highlighted the power of connecting schools, industry and government, for working toward collective goals. All three sectors are integral to collaborative STEM education programs, and more can be achieved through linking people together than by any group in isolation.
Keynote speaker Sally-Ann Williams, Engineering Community and Outreach Manager at Google, focused on the fundamental aim of partnerships programs: to show young people why STEM matters through solving real world problems. Programs that give students the opportunity to think about STEM in a real-world context by putting humanity and social challenges at the forefront of discussions can provide relevance and motivation for many students who otherwise might not consider STEM career pathways.
A panel discussion with experts in STEM education, partnership programs and policy followed the keynote address, providing another level of insight into how to help industry and schools collaborate effectively to provide positive outcomes for students.
– Sally-Ann Williams, Google Australia
Kate Torii, policy fellow at the Mitchell Institute, commented on the importance of ‘intermediaries’ that connect organisations together. With so many avenues for connection, especially in a world driven by social media, it’s important for teachers and industry professionals to be aware of people or groups with existing expertise in linking up organisations with common goals.
Felicity Furey, co-founder of Power of Engineering and Machinam, spoke from experience about the value of ‘grass-roots’ volunteer-led programs. Limited budgets in not-for-profit organisations require creativity to manage, and this can lead to innovative approaches for making STEM accessible to all students. Supporting a passionate community of individuals is especially important for bringing STEM industry exposure to schools and students in regional areas.
Troy Waller, learning delivery specialist at Microsoft, commented on the readiness of industry to join forces with schools. Many companies have products or resources that can be easily applied to a school or education context, and many are eager to share them to help engage more young people in STEM.
Dr. Linda McIver, co-founder and director of the Australian Data Science Education Institute, commented on the importance of supporting classroom teachers. Schools are a great platform to teach STEM skills and introduce relevant real-world applications, but this can only happen if teachers have support and resources to do so. Providing more opportunities for teachers to engage with industry, such as events like the In2science Industry-Schools Partnerships Forum, are also invaluable.
One of the main challenges faced by school teachers in establishing useful and relevant programs for students was raised by the audience, “If you want to bring real-world STEM into your school, where do you start?” The answer from panel was an overwhelming invitation to reach out and start a conversation.
Networking and discussions continued after the panel, providing teachers and industry professionals with a unique opportunity to share ideas, challenges and potential avenues for progress.
In2science invests in school, university, government, industry and philanthropic partnerships, which has enabled the program to reach over 58,000 school students since commencing in 2004, with 276 volunteer STEM mentor placements across its 67 partner schools in 2018.
To find out more about the program, or to discuss a partnership to support and enrich STEM education in Victorian high schools, please contact In2science Director Megan Mundy.
Special thanks goes to the Selby Scientific Foundation for their continued support of In2science mentor development opportunities and events.
A recording of the event is available here via the In2science Facebook page.