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$1 million for Flinders STEM courses

Manufacturing News

New federal funds will help Flinders University support hundreds of female Year 9 students in South Australia and the Northern Territory to build competitive skills in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM), along with entrepreneurial skills to build their future education and career opportunities.

The Flinders University STEM Enrichment Academy received almost $1 million in federal government Department of Industry, Science and Resources funding through the latest round of the Women in STEM and Entrepreneurship (WiSE) programme.

The $996,144 funding injection will ramp up the successful Academy’s outreach in regional and suburban schools, to target a further 1,000 schoolgirls through specially adapted STEM enhancement courses, as well as supporting a new diploma course for up to 150 secondary school STEM teachers.

Director of Flinders University’s STEM Enrichment Academy Professor of Physics Maria Parappilly said: “We are aiming to engage thousands of girls by giving them and their teachers ‘real world’ insights into the career and education pathways possible via STEM studies.

“We hope to increase the gender balance in occupations such as engineering, mathematics and other career pathways by equipping female students with fresh insights into the potential and excitement of STEM subjects, including with industry placements and hands-on skills enrichment.”

More than 90 percent of female participants in the first year of the Academy’s programme have gone on to study advanced STEM subjects in their senior years of high school education.

Professor Parappilly said reversing a trend of declining female STEM participation is crucial to close the gender pay gap and to address skills shortages and meet economic productivity gain targets.

“In the first phase of the Academy, we influenced more than 500 participating girls positively by boosting their confidence in STEM subjects and reversing student attitudes on the difficulty of STEM careers.

“The programme increased the numbers studying STEM in their senior years of high school, with subsequent increased university enrolments.”

An addition in the next part of the project is to design and offer an Enhancement Diploma in Teaching Physics and Math to upskill primary teachers and secondary teachers without formal STEM qualifications so they can teach physics and maths at higher levels – and develop sustainable STEM capabilities among teachers.

Federal Minister for Industry and Science Ed Husic said the latest round of $15.9 million in grant funding aims to support more women into STEM careers, and to encouraging girls to study STEM subjects.

Husic said: “We want to make sure that more women find lasting, rewarding and successful careers in STEM fields, regardless of their background.

“The grants program focuses on projects that remove systemic and cultural barriers for women in STEM education, careers, innovation and entrepreneurship. It supports projects that increase the number of women in senior leadership and decision-making positions in government, research organisation, industry and business.”

Picture: Professor Maria Parappilly and students from Nazareth Catholic College at a Flinders University STEM Enrichment Academy LEGO training session.

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