Western Australia launches its first STEM skills strategy

To create a globally competitive and STEM-fluent workforce in Western Australia.

Western Australia launched its science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) skills strategy on Wednesday, which will attempt to create a globally competitive and innovative STEM workforce. 

The strategy, titled Future Jobs, Future Skills: Driving STEM skills in Western Australia [PDF], is built on five so-called pillars: skills for future jobs; STEM culture; school leadership and teacher excellence; diversity in STEM; training and reskilling for jobs. 

It is the state's first-ever STEM skills strategy, the WA government said.

The state's STEM skills strategy was developed by a panel comprised of industry experts, educators, and researchers, and was chaired by WA Chief Scientist Peter Klinken.

The McGowan government has currently committed AU$3.4 million to deliver on these pillars, which includes a four-year professional learning program for 1,000 teachers working in lower socio-economic public schools, mentoring programs, digital and technology programs, and the development of a STEM communication campaign.

"Technological change, automation and a diversifying economy mean that every Western Australian needs some level of STEM skills, not just workers in STEM related jobs," Innovation and ICT Minister Dave Kelly said.

"If we can get our education, training and policy ahead of the game during this time of rapid change, we can maximise the creation of WA jobs and create a bright future for all."

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Activities under these pillars will be guided by the strategy's three goals of ensuring that students have STEM skills; the current workforce is able to develop STEM skills to embrace technological change; and barriers are broken down to improve participation in a STEM future.

According to the Western Australian government, there is a current lack of diversity in STEM-related careers, with women only account for 16% STEM-qualified people in Australia. Indigenous people, meanwhile, represent less than 1% of higher education engineering and science students.

The strategy's success will be measured by factors such as the participation rates of students in STEM subjects, the number of STEM students, teachers, and workers, with the WA government setting a target of having 85% of Year 12 students completing two or more STEM courses by 2024. 

The STEM skills strategy was initially outlined in the state's Budget papers, when the McGowan government proposed giving AU$3.4 million for the strategy.

"The strategy will focus on improving STEM education and identifying ways of promoting the importance of the key STEM skills of problem solving, critical thinking, and innovation," the Budget papers explained.

Elsewhere in the budget, the WA government proposed to give Newton Moore Senior High School in Bunbury an additional AU$3 million injection, spread over two years, for the development of a STEM centre.

The state government also said it would offer up AU$3 million towards science labs for 51 primary schools across the state.

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