Science initiative helps kids bridge the skills gap

Thursday, 26 June 2008

An innovative collaboration between Challenger TAFE and Scitech is introducing local primary school students to science- and technology-based careers as part of a long term strategy to address WA’s skills shortage.

A series of workshops and activities, in conjunction with a visit to the Australian Marine Complex (AMC), was designed to expose the students to local career opportunities in a fun and engaging way.

Challenger TAFE's Defence Industry Skills Unit (DISU) hosted the CSIRO’s Lab-on-Legs program, which featured a range of exciting hands-on laboratory experiences to highlight the everyday applications of scientific research.

DISU is a WA Government initiative to help stimulate and sustain a supply of skilled workers to the local marine and defence industries in a skills shortage climate.

Challenger TAFE Managing Director, Liz Harris, said it was encouraging to see so many female students develop an early interest in careers such as shipbuilding and engineering.

“One of the things to emerge from this program is that exciting and adventurous careers in science and engineering are now equally attractive for girls as well as boys,” she said.

“We are seeing increasing numbers of female engineering students as a result, and they are enjoying unprecedented choices in lucrative and rewarding careers in local industries.”

Peel MLA and Chair of the DISU board, Paul Papalia, told students that the skills they develop will be vital for local industry, and that their career opportunities are virtually unlimited.

“WA is the best place on earth to be a young person. Many of our local industries - particularly in shipbuilding and maintenance - have a long term need for enthusiastic young people, which means that whatever it is you dream about doing, you can achieve it here,” he said.

Rockingham Beach Primary School teacher, Ian Bosch, said his Year Seven students were particularly responsive to the program.

“This is an absolutely fantastic initiative for giving kids an insight into career possibilities,” he said.

“We’ve already got several students interested in shipbuilding, boilermaking, and engineering, and many more are realising the importance of science education in determining their future prospects.”  

The manager of the CSIROLab at Scitech, Dr Claire Pannell, said that even the most uninterested students soon become fascinated with science and technology.

“Some students might have a little bit of attitude at first, but science and technology are presented in such a fun way in this program that they’re hooked before they realise it,” she said.

“It’s great to see students getting excited about science at primary school age. This way, once they get to high school they will have a much better idea about their career directions.”

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