Strengthening our workforce

Scientific and technological endeavours have revolutionised our society. These days, it is difficult to think of a job that does not require STEM skills. Yet research has shown a decline in the rate of participation of Australian students in STEM subjects, and that our students underperform in all the major international studies. This highlights a great need for change.

Key research findings that support our aims include:
  • STEM in schools
  • STEM in the workforce
  • STEM in schools

The Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) 2015 results have revealed the performance of Australian students in reading, maths and science has decreased over the past 15 years.

Australia ranked 14th in science, 16th in reading and 25th in mathematics of 72 participating countries.

According to research by Australia’s Chief Scientist, participation in most year 12 mathematics and science subjects is declining, and for science is the lowest in 20 years.

Information from the Queensland Studies Authority shows that between 2002 and 2013 enrolments by year 12 students in information processing and technology declined by more than half (5598 in 2002 to 2168 in 2013).

According to data from the National Centre for Vocational Education Research, university and vocational enrolments in information technology have decreased by at least 50 per cent over the last 11 years. This trend is echoed in agriculture, environmental and related studies, where tertiary and vocational education and training areas have seen a drop in enrolments as well.

  • STEM in the workforce

Research by Price Waterhouse Coopers (PwC) revealed about 44 per cent, or 5.1 million jobs, are at high risk of being affected by computerisation over the next 20 years, and 75 per cent of the fastest growing occupations now require STEM skills.

Economic modelling by PwC shows that shifting just one per cent of the workforce into STEM roles would add $57.4 billion to Australia’s Gross Domestic Product over 20 years.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) has reported that between 2006 and 2011 STEM skills jobs grew at about 1.5 times the rate of other jobs in recent years – by 14 per cent compared to 9 per cent.

According to the ABS, about 18 per cent of the Australian workforce has STEM qualifications with design, engineering, science, transport and ICT professionals the fastest growing occupations.

Research undertaken by the Australian Industry Group in 2014 found almost 44 per cent of employers experienced difficulties recruiting STEM qualified technicians and trade workers. The main barriers were a lack of qualifications relevant to the business (36 per cent) and a lack of employability skills and workplace experience (34 per cent).

Measuring the impact: Evidence for a new approach

Together with The University of Queensland (UQ), we will use research to measure the impact of our curriculum based approach to learning. This will ensure we have important data and feedback to:

  • refine and review our programs
  • share new knowledge
  • help influence policy decisions
  • inform education

Recently announced in the latest round of Australian Research Council (ARC) grants was an award of $278,000 to UQ’s Dr Kim Nicholls to research the effects of the Future Makers partnership and develop a museum-based professional development intervention for middle years’ teachers, aligned to the Australian Science Curriculum. 

The research project will run from three years, commencing in July 2018 and will work with Queensland Museum, Shell QGC and Department of Education and Training. 

Read the full media release on the Queensland Museum website.