Mentoring the next generation of STEM professionals in Australia is an important task to ensure we're prepared for the future.

Mentoring the next generation of STEM professionals in Australia is an important task.

The labour market demand for skills in STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) is growing at a rate 1.5 times faster than other skills.

We’re committed to meet this challenge and properly equip the next generation of STEM professionals.

That’s where our involvement in Generation STEM comes in.

Supporting the next generation of STEM professionals

Generation STEM is a NSW Government-funded 10-year initiative. It empowers young people with the relevant skills to pursue a career in STEM.

STEM skills are already in high demand. Planned major new developments in NSW – and beyond – will see this demand continue to grow.

Major projects, like the Western Sydney International Airport, will create many opportunities and up to 200,000 new jobs. Australia needs a STEM-skilled workforce for the future.

The power of mentorship

The first program launched under Generation STEM is the STEM Community Partnerships Program (STEM CPP). This NSW-based program inspires local Year 9 and 10 students to explore STEM career pathways. It showcases the range of exciting career opportunities on the students’ doorsteps.

The program already has more than 50 participating schools this year, and is expanding to other parts of NSW. The program invites students to step out of the classroom. They do this both physically and virtually, to witness real-world applications of STEM.

This offers students valuable insight into local STEM pathways.

Stephan Wagner, Generation STEM mentor.

Stephan Wagner, Generation STEM mentor.

Connecting with STEM mentors

Generation STEM connects teachers and students with local STEM businesses and mentors helps students to further explore the range of STEM careers.

Stephan Wagner, Regional Manager for Western Sydney at AusIndustry, was one of the first mentors to join the program.

Stephan has always been passionate about fostering the next generation of STEM talent. He enthusiastically jumped at the chance to mentor students from Sarah Redfern High School in Western Sydney.

He describes his experience as deeply rewarding on both a personal and professional level.

“It’s a really good way to contribute back to the community in a virtuous way and a great way to get young people excited about science, engineering, technology and maths,” Stephan said.

Students participating in Generation STEM.

Sarah Redfern High School students’ Inquiry Project as part of Generation STEM.

Real-world STEM experiences

Stephan recalls the first time he addressed a class of students. He shared his story, and the students were fascinated with his notable credentials in engineering. They also took an interest in how he utilised these skills to carve out his own a successful and rewarding career in STEM.

Through sharing his experience, Stephan was able to really connect with the students and increase their awareness of STEM.

“The first time I sat in front of the class, I simply talked through my working career, starting from when I was their age until now,” Stephan said.

“It was easy for me to share a few stories and it was an excellent way to break the ice. I wasn’t coming in as another teacher, but simply as a person with life experiences to share.”

As part of the STEM CPP, students undertake inquiry-based projects that address real challenges faced by the local community and present their STEM solutions at an end-of-year Project Showcase.

Students participating in Generation STEM.

Sarah Redfern High School students who participated in Generation STEM.

Challenging the next generation of STEM professionals

On top of that, Stephan supported the students of Sarah Redfern High School with their challenge projects.

“I blown away by their talent, ambition, and positive attitude,” Stephan said.

“I was gifted with a group of students that were very motivated to apply STEM to real world problems. They put forward convincing science-based arguments and demonstrated their ideas in a practical way. If I was in the position to employ, I would be happy to hire a number of them in the future.”

The students at Sarah Redfern High School produced an impressive diorama encompassing all their creative STEM solutions. The project left them feeling great excitement about the potential of a STEM career and how it could help them to make a significant difference in their community.

You can view a video of the students’ work, and other students project from 2020, at the Generation STEM Virtual Showcase 

If you can’t see it, you can’t be it

The STEM CPP demonstrates the importance of showcasing a range of careers to students in an effort to build a stronger STEM-talent pipeline. By providing students with an opportunity to see, experience and interact with a STEM business or role model in their local community, the program enables students to better understand the possible career pathways and empowers them with the confidence to pursue those opportunities.

Stephan encourages other STEM businesses to get involved in the STEM CPP. He recognises the importance of investing time to promote the exciting world of STEM and inspire students to pursue STEM careers.

“Right now there is a disconnect between generations. Industry needs to get better at communicating and engaging with younger people. This program gives us a better way to connect with our future workforce,” said Stephan.

If you are a business in Western Sydney that uses STEM in your work and would like to get involved, visit Generation STEM or email the CSIRO team.