Wednesday 5th Feb, 2:45 pm
The recent position paper from the Office of the Chief Scientist has called for a strategic approach to science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) in the national interest (Office of the Chief Scientist, 2013). To reverse the declining trends in STEM participation at all levels of education, the paper recommends students be guided in their study decisions by highlighting the need for an increasingly diverse and well qualified STEM workforce.
Much has been written about the importance of using STEM professionals as role models to steer school students towards STEM careers (e.g. NFER 2013, Ware & Stein 2013). There is also a focus on presenting career options to senior secondary school students to guide their tertiary study choices. However, the declining numbers of students studying sciences and mathematics as senior subjects means that there is already a lower pool of students to make the progression to tertiary studies in STEM areas.
The STEM Futures model has been developed by the Science and Engineering Faculty as part of the QUT Widening Participation program to build aspirations for tertiary STEM studies for students from disadvantaged backgrounds. The program works in conjunction with science and mathematics departments in target high schools to showcase STEM-based careers to students in year 10.
By demystifying the tertiary study required for these professions through presentations by currently enrolled student ambassadors, the program endeavours to increase the number of students undertaking science and mathematics in senior school in preparation for their progression to university STEM studies. The premise of the program is based on a continuum of career decision making, particularly for those ‘first in family’ students, with the decision to undertake senior science and mathematics a requisite to successful transition to the tertiary studies associated with their desired STEM-based career.
Results to date have been very positive, with targeted schools reporting an increased interest and level of enrolment in senior sciences and mathematics subjects. This program also has broader application, with requests to host STEM Future events from schools outside the Widening Participation network.