Science and Technology

Right mix of skills critical for Australia’s STEM graduates

Professional Scientists Australia warns it is critical that highly-qualified Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths graduates have the right mix of technical and non-technical skills as they enter the workforce.

This follows the release of a Grattan Institute report revealing many of Australia’s science graduates face challenges securing permanent employment.

Professional Scientists Australia CEO Chris Walton expressed concerns that only 51 per cent of science graduates secured full-time positions within four months of graduating but rejected the Grattan Institute’s claim that future STEM students should reconsider.

“The Grattan Institute’s Andrew Norton is missing the point when he says STEM graduates should look at studying something else”, said Mr Walton.

“The skills STEM graduates’ acquire in their degree equip them with critical thinking, reasoning, logical deduction, problem-solving and quantitative analysis – all skills crucial to both the corporate and research sectors.

“We need to ensure that graduates have opportunities, both within their studies and through their employer to become ‘job capable’. This means that employers must start recognising the capacity of STEM graduates to benefit their business”, said Mr Walton.

The non-technical STEM skills Mr Walton refers to include management, leadership, entrepreneurial, business, operational, marketing and commercialisation skills – the soft skills often not taught explicitly with a STEM undergraduate course.

“STEM graduates with the right mix of technical and non-technical skills, combined with employer recognition will define Australia’s innovation capability into the future. We must strengthen our STEM skills base and position the STEM workforce for driving innovation.

“Malcolm Turnbull called for an ‘ideas boom’ and has rightly identified that innovation will drive Australian prosperity, but it’s critical that strategic professional development is part of STEM graduates’ preparation.

“Australia has great opportunities to develop new research and technologies and to drive more business innovation, but these opportunities only pay dividends if we have skilled graduates who are passionate about applying their knowledge and have the skills to do that effectively.

“We call on the Turnbull Government to work with state governments, industry bodies and businesses to make sure we have a long-term approach to workforce development and to ensure that the strong technical and non-technical skills of STEM professionals are recognised as central to the National Innovation and Science Agenda,” said Mr Walton.

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