Science and Technology

Business peak body calls for companies to give back to students

CSIRO STEM students
CSIRO's Scientists and Mathematicians in Schools program brings real-world STEM into classrooms

Peak industry association, Ai Group has partnered with CSIRO to increase the number of industry professionals showcasing real-life science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) skills and careers in Australian schools.

The association, which represents more than 60,000 businesses, has called on industry to invest in the future workforce by getting their staff into Australian classrooms.

CSIRO’s partnership with Ai Group is through the Scientists and Mathematicians in Schools (SMiS) program which links practising scientists, mathematicians, engineers and IT professionals with students to generate interest and motivation in STEM through real-world exposure.

Of the 1972 active program partnerships across Australia, only 13 per cent of STEM professionals come from industry and corporate businesses.

Cisco, an Ai Group member, is involved in the SMiS program as part of their organisational commitment to tackle Australia’s STEM skills shortage.

Cisco Australia Vice President and SMiS mentor Sae Kwon said it was a real privilege to give back to the students that will be tomorrow’s great innovators.

“The kids are fascinated that I talk to them from other countries like Singapore over video conference, Mr Kwon said.

“It’s great to be able to talk about the cool jobs available, the great people you get to meet, the many countries you can visit and all the fun you can have working in STEM.

“I was certainly not aware of the cool jobs that exists in STEM until I started working in the field.”

Ai Group Chief Executive Innes Willox explained that participation in STEM subjects is declining but industry can do more to support the Australian economy with a robust skills pipeline.

“Our relative decline of STEM skills is holding back our national economy and causing real frustration for employers,” Mr Willox said.

According to the Ai Group and the Office of the Chief Scientist’s STEM Skills Partnerships program, 75 per cent of the fatest growing occupations require STEM knowledge and skills but at the moment the number of students coming out of university is not keeping up with this demand.

CSIRO Education Manager Mary Mulcahy said students’ interest in STEM subjects is decreasing, we need to solve this early on in schooling to ensure the future workforce pipeline can meet our future demand.

“Our evidence shows that bringing real-life, hands-on STEM into classrooms results in students being more engaged in these subjects,” Ms Mulcahy said.

“Letting students know about the diversity of careers available to them is also important – jobs from accounting, construction, nursing to hair dressing all use STEM skills.

Industry also tells us that people with STEM backgrounds are more flexible and innovative and are able to take advantage of opportunities and changes in the workplace.

This will be important in the future because it is predicted that up to 44 per cent of current jobs will disappear within 20 years.

It’s part of CSIRO’s Strategy 2020 to be Australia’s innovation catalyst by increasing our engagement in education and training from school age to PhD level and the workplace to help build and equip Australia’s future STEM and innovation capable workforce.

CSIRO and Ai Group are looking for STEM professionals to get involved in the program and inspire students.

To register your interest, visit

Scientists and Mathematicians in Schools was provided $10 million in funding from the Australian Government the Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) partnerships with Schools initiative under the Government’s National Innovation and Science Agenda. The partnership between Ai Group and CSIRO came about from some work funded by Office of the Chief Scientist.
SMiSposium 2016: Partnering for the future event will be held at Doltone House on Tuesday 6 September 2016. Come along to hear from STEM education thought leaders from the Office of the Chief Scientist, Ai Group, Cisco, CSIRO and others.

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