STEM Workforce Conference Delivers Workforce Development Strategies

RDA Hunter's third annual STEM Conference identified the importance of building a STEM skilled workforce, equipped with teamwork and entrepreneurial skills, to enable innovation-driven growth and propel industry development

Regional Development Australia (RDA) Hunter, as the region’s economic development agency, has identified the importance of building a STEM skilled workforce, equipped with teamwork and entrepreneurial skills, to enable innovation-driven growth and propel industry development. 

Since 2010, RDA Hunter has been undertaking activities to STEM skill the region’s future workforce. These initiatives are collectively known as RDA Hunter’s STEM Workforce Initiative and comprise Mini ME, ME Program, iSTEM and STEMship. These life-stage specific, education and industry partnership programs together create a pipeline of opportunities and activities for students from eight years of age to 18. 

In close partnership with local industry, including defence prime contractors, multi-nationals and SMEs, students are immersed in industry focused and designed curriculum as well as professional placements and work experience. These activities assist students to explore solutions to real-world problems, encourage interest in STEM careers and ensure job preparedness for employment on projects being created in our region, such as Defence’s Joint Strike Fighter and continuous shipbuilding program. 

RDA Hunter strives to maintain the relevance of its programs and continues to engage with its industry partners and wider stakeholders to ensure its initiatives are truly industry-led. The third annual RDA Hunter STEM Workforce Conference was held in May 2018 to facilitate this engagement.

CONFERENCE OVERVIEW
Technology is disrupting the way we live, work, study and do business. It’s made us globally interdependent and encouraged us to engage with new markets. It’s also forced us to compete at an international level which means harnessing our competitive strengths, seizing opportunities and being vigilant to the next big international trends. 

So, when it comes to preparing the Hunter region’s strong industrial base for the future ….
HOW WILL DIGITAL TECHNOLOGY CREATE NEW JOBS? 
HOW WILL STEM CHANGE THE FACE OF TRADITIONAL INDUSTRY AND WHAT’S NEXT? 
WHAT DO OUR KIDS NEED TO BE READY FOR? HOW DO THEY PREPARE? 
HOW DOES OUR EDUCATION SYSTEM ADAPT?

To help answer these questions, RDA Hunter assembled some of the Country’s brightest futurists and STEM experts to discuss ‘the next big thing in STEM’ at its 2018 STEM Workforce Conference. 

The event, which was held at Rydges Newcastle on May 10th, examined international and future trends and discussed the role science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) play in the way we do business, the jobs we’ll be doing in the future and how we’ll be doing them. It facilitated industry and stakeholder discussion to identify and explore what these jobs will look like in the Hunter and the skills our young people will need to perform them. 

It was also an opportunity for RDA Hunter to gain insights into the future requirements of industry and tailor the next iterations of its STEM skilling initiatives - Mini ME, ME Program and STEMship - and it provided a forum for collaboration between industry, government and education providers to shape workforce development in the region.

The impressive list of guest speakers included futurist, Mark Pesce, CEO for the Foundation for Young Australians, Jan Owen, STEM and education experts, Dr Catherine Ball and Dr Jenine Beekhuyzen as well as representatives from leading global companies Cisco, BAE Systems, Boeing, Hedweld Group, Hummingbird Electronics, Jacobs, Bohemia Interactive Simulations; educators, St Philips Christian College, University of Newcastle and TAFE NSW; and Newcastle City Council. 

The agenda was planned in such a way as to guide the 150 strong audience’s thinking about workforce development in terms of people – to discuss the type of students we are working with; the technologically advanced world in which they’ve grown up; how this technology is, and will continue to, impact industry and jobs; and the necessity to prepare our education system to adequately skill our future workforce.

Discussion was robust and ‘real’ and day’s outcomes focused on the types and numbers of jobs that need filling urgently as well as in the short and longer term. 

SO, WHERE TO FROM HERE?
RDA Hunter’s STEM Workforce Initiative will deepen and grow engagement with industry in the Hunter and nationally to further develop a workforce that has industry relevant STEM skills for the future. Our miniME, ME Program and STEMship activities will continue to be refined based on feedback received from industry partners at the Conference and in the weeks and months ahead. Additional activities will be added to RDA Hunter’s suite of STEM workforce development programs to strengthen its impact.