Teachers came from a diversity of public and private high schools in areas such as Dubbo, Tamworth, Grafton, Newcastle and Molong, and Sydney suburbs such as Rouse Hill, Wiley Park, Doonside, Alexandria, Randwick, Wahroonga and Willoughby.
Starting in Westpac’s offices in Barangaroo, the teachers heard from the University of Sydney’s Kristl Mauropoulos, Head of Partner Engagement and Outreach for the Faculty of Science.
She shared why it’s important for high school science teachers to know about the breadth of career options available to students with STEM skills, and highlighted the diversity of programs and resources provided by the Faculty of Science for teachers.
Sue Doherty, Senior Manager of STEM Advocacy within the Technology Group at Westpac, spoke about why a bank like Westpac cares about STEM skills and why they have a STEM Commitment program.
“Why do we care about STEM? This is where growth is going to be in our economy. We want to empower teachers with a greater understanding of what the skills of the future will be and how they can translate that back to their classrooms, with a clear message for students that with STEM skills, the options are endless,” said Sue Doherty.
“Across Westpac, we were already doing a lot in the STEM space, so we decided to create our STEM Commitment to pull together all our programs, initiatives and support for STEM skills across Australia.”
“We run various STEM work experience and scholarship programs as part of this, including the Westpac Scholarship Program, Mathspace, Code Camp and the Westpac PhD STEM Program,” explained Sue Doherty.
“STEM skills are essential to Australia's future prosperity and that's why we have invested in the upskilling of our community and helping to build a STEM-confident nation.”
Dylan Ferrie, Change Director within the Technology Group at Westpac, talked about technology at Westpac and the future of work.
“There are five global mega trends shaping the future of work: demographic changes; globalisation; social trends; resources scarcity; and technological developments,” said Dylan Ferrie.
“We’re interested in people who are curious and love problem solving - two attributes that are cultivated in STEM studies.”
Westpac STEM PhD Program participant, James Reoch, who is a current PhD student in applied mathematics, talked about his experience on the program.
“As well as my PhD in applied maths, I’m working at Westpac in the Financial Markets team as a quantitative researcher analysing trade data to produce business insights and help drive decision making,” said James Reoch.
“My experience on the Westpac program has really shown me the flexibility and applicability of STEM skills and how they are useful in banking. People think of studying STEM as prescriptive – like if you study biology you’ll end up as a biologist – but it’s really not, and instead opens up a world of opportunities.”
University of Sydney’s Associate Professor James Curran spoke about his National Computer Science School, Cyber Security Challenge and the national Digital Technologies curriculum which he co-wrote for the government. Teachers were excited to find out about the range of workshops and resources for teachers and high school students that his team had created as part of these programs.
The afternoon was spent at the colourful Google office in Pyrmont, starting with Marie Efstathiou, Program Manager at Google, sharing what the Sydney team focuses on, the resources for high school teachers and students they produce, and what they look for when hiring staff at Google.
“When we look at careers of the future, we have an equation for success: CS + X = career. CS is computer science and X is what you’re passionate about; when you combine the two the possibilities are endless,” said Marie Efstathiou.
“An example of this is the smart contact lens project, which is for the eyes of people with diabetes and sends an alert to the wearer’s phone when their blood glucose levels are getting low. Here medical and technical skills have come together to create a completely innovative product that neither doctors alone or computer scientists alone would have come up with.”
“What do we look for when hiring in staff at Google? People who love to learn – a fascination for learning is the most important thing. In addition to technical skills, we also look for the ability to work in a team and good communications skills.”
The University of Sydney’s Shiva Ford talked about the STEM Teacher Enrichment Academy and how it supports teachers in delivering innovative ways of teaching science, technology, engineering and mathematics in their classrooms, with the aim of inspiring their students to consider studying these subjects in senior school and beyond. The STEM Academy is the first of its kind in Australia in providing an enrichment-focused professional learning program for primary and secondary school teachers.
Physics teacher, Ethan Truong, from Knox Grammar School, said of STEM Works, “It’s been really great to find out what industry partners can offer us and what we can offer them. For example, we do a lot of citizen science with our students and they love collecting real data and contributing to real science, so this is an area where we could help our industry partners.”