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75% of the world's fastest growing occupations require STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) skills, a fact in stark contrast with the declining interest in such subjects amongst high school students*.
This understanding led to TAFE NSW launching the STEMship pre-employment program in Newcastle with RDA Hunter in 2016 - Australia’s first integrated STEM, vocational education and training pre-employment program.
Now, to further the cause, the two entities have joined forces with global defence and technology company Lockheed Martin to form STEMstart, shaping curriculum to ensure highly-skilled, high-value workers ready for defence technologies of the future. They are enhancing the vocational pathway for technical training to include critical skills in areas including cyber, ICT and programming, providing significant prospects to local students.
The next round of the STEMstart program begins in late May and expressions of interest are open now.
Savvy young people studying STEM courses - like 19 year old Mayfield local Zachery Aislabie - will reap the employment rewards. Many opportunities already abound in Newcastle, a city committed to being smarter, more innovative and globally-focused, and a great many others thrive further afield.
Zachery said that after completing almost one year of a university mathematics and physics degree, he decided to change course via a local aviation-related job opportunity and TAFE NSW study pathway.
“I really enjoyed electronics, physics and math in high school so I went to uni in 2018 and did just under a year of a Bachelor of Science. But I wasn’t satisfied with the learning culture so I began looking elsewhere,” he said.
“A Lockheed Martin Australia apprentice technician job came up and it was just what I wanted. My application was successful and, to complement my training, I began a Certificate III in Electronics and Communications at TAFE NSW Newcastle.
"In my role each day is different. I’m currently focused on the tactical air defence radar, with repairs and producing maintenance data we on-share to provide insights that improve the knowledge base of our sector.
“My career goal is to smash out the Advanced Diploma of Electronics and Communications at TAFE NSW and follow Lockheed Martin job opportunities. Then, hopefully when Australia sets up the aerospace program, I would love to work for that. I am confident about the career opportunities I will have by working and training in a STEM-related field. With any, the fundamental skills are transferrable to other fields. For example, you can work in radar communications then swap to broadcasting as they both use radio frequency fundamentals.
“And I have to give the Hunter a shout-out. A lot is and will be happening in aerospace here. There is definitely a growing number of jobs in the industry and huge potential for those wanting a great career.”
Recent TAFE NSW research on the aviation industry found that of all the workforce skills, STEM ranks number one in importance.
Zachery’s manager at Lockheed Martin, Shawn Smith said, “Zachery is a very driven young man, we are really pleased with him. He is enthusiastic and has great potential to succeed in this booming industry.”
As highlighted recently by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), TAFE NSW and RDA Hunter collaborate well with STEM-related industry employers to build courses that target and teach the skills they need in their teams now and in the future. This ensures these companies remain highly competitive and relevant in an increasingly globalised marketplace.
Potential students interested in the next STEMstart program need to register their interest by 20 May, via www.rdahunterstem.org.au/stemstart/.
TAFE NSW is Australia’s largest training provider, offering over 1,200 courses, from certificates to degrees. It offers a range of STEM-related courses, both face-to-face and online. Visit tafensw.com.au or call 131 601.
*Tomorrow’s Digitally Enabled Workforce report, 2016