Australia needs to urgently rethink its approach to encouraging careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) in order to tackle the growing national skills crisis.
That’s the case made by a major new report produced by the Australian Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering (ATSE) – Our STEM Skilled Future: An Education Roadmap for an Innovative Workforce.
With major challenges to skilled migration, coupled with rapid business digitisation and decarbonisation – the report calls for a step change to make crucial STEM skills accessible, attainable and aspirational to all Australians.
ATSE Chief Executive Office Kylie Walker said “Australia needs 100,000 more digitally skilled workers and 40,000 more engineers in the next two years alone. We need decisive action to attract and retain the workforce Australia needs to become a STEM-empowered force on the global stage.”
“To realise this – we need a common language for our workers and organisations to communicate the skills they have, want or need. Every sector has its own language, and without a comprehensive skills taxonomy, it’s challenging to have rapid vocational mobility where STEM skills are in high demand, such as engineering jobs.”
“The report also illuminates the need to evaluate Australia’s proliferating STEM education resources and programs – to best position ourselves, we need to know what’s working, and what’s not. Businesses and time-poor educators are currently navigating with no compass – ATSE wants to see a self-assessment and quality framework to ensure STEM education programs are value-for-money and fit for purpose.”
The report, which draws on the expertise of over 400 experts across sectors and disciplines as diverse as mathematics, agriculture, digital skills, engineering and entrepreneurship, calls for all levels of government, industry, unions, peak bodies, educators, and individuals to collaborate and urgently support life-long learning initiatives, and offers ATSE’s unique network and expertise to catalyse the transformation.
“With rapid technological progress and constantly evolving tech careers, cementing a culture of lifelong STEM learning will help our workforce to retrain and upskill. The government can help motivate this transformation by investing in workplace learning incentives for businesses focused on priority STEM skills,” Kylie Walker said.
“It can be difficult to imagine a day in the life of an engineer, mathematician or computer coder, but people in these roles are solving real and urgent problems, and empowering a more resilient society.”
The report also found that increasing diversity and inclusion in the STEM-skilled workforce will be a critical enabler to move the needle on workforce shortages and tackle capacity and capability gaps.
“Equal representation is still lacking in STEM careers, particularly for women, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and those living with disabilities. This can make it hard to imagine a STEM career is attainable.”
“Governments, industry and academia have a key role to play by naming and faming diverse role models and supporting quality paid internships that show how STEM can transform our world. We need a mass behaviour change effort to win hearts and minds, with the goal of attracting and retaining STEM professionals,”said Kylie Walker.
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Our STEM Skilled Future: An Education Roadmap for an Innovative Workforce was launched at a high-level breakfast event as part of ATSE’s ACTIVATE Symposium on Wednesday 26 October 2022.
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The Australian Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering is a Learned Academy of independent experts helping Australians understand and use technology to solve complex problems.