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Committee for Geelong's Weekly Addy Opinion Piece - STEM revolution

Now more than ever, supporting and encouraging our young people to finish their studies and further their employment opportunities is vital.

Our region is undergoing significant changes in the labour market, and the exit of major manufacturing industries demands a shift to a more modern knowledge and skills-based economy.

The establishment of the first Pathways in Technology Early College High School (P-TECH) in Brooklyn, New York in 2011 by IBM and partners, was a new vision for education and career readiness.  The Committee for Geelong recently met with Rashid Davis, the Principal of the first P-TECH school to learn more about the school's success.

Governments and businesses world-wide recognise the vital role that the primary skills of Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) play in transitioning to a new global economy.  The P-TECH model has been designed to focus on these in demand skills and tackle the current disconnect between education and employment.

The P-TECH program provides senior secondary students with a pathway to a STEM diploma or advanced diploma. It includes industry mentoring and improves the prospects of employment for young people. 

Public-private partnerships are essential to ensuring that secondary students have both the academic and workplace skills they need to succeed.  With financial support from the Australian Government, the Skilling Australia Foundation and partners have implemented a local model adapted from the US. Over the past year Geelong businesses and Newcomb Secondary College (NSC), which hosts the P-TECH pilot in Geelong, have been working together to provide students with an appreciation of STEM and its relevance to future work opportunities.

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The Year 9 students from NSC are studying english, science and maths as well as undertaking a specialist STEM learning programme. As part of this programme the students recently visited Geelong based valuation and property advisors Opteon Property Group, together with Tribal Campus - a leading provider of cloud-based programs for the education sector. Students have also been visiting other P-TECH partners including Barwon Health, Bendigo Bank and GMHBA.  In parallel, a P-TECH school commenced in Ballarat with educator Federation College and IBM as the employer partner.

Simon Birmingham, Australia's Minister for Education, recently flagged 12 new P-TECH schools that will join the initial pilot sites in Geelong and Ballarat. This is part of the Federal Government's commitment to open up new opportunities for young Australians to ensure they get the skills employers need.

Skilling Australia Chairman Fred Maddern OBE has stressed the need to increase the number of students undertaking STEM studies, and interest in the new P-TECH schools has been Australia-wide. A large number of employers around the country have also expressed strong interest in following the lead of Geelong businesses to form partnerships with local educators and the community.

The partnerships between the schools and industry are already providing opportunities for students to engage with the world of work, and better understand the relevance of their learning to jobs and post-school pathways.

Our community should be proud that, as Geelong transforms, our city is leading the way with the innovative P-TECH education model.


Rebecca Casson is the Committee for Geelong Chief Executive Officer. Follow the Committee for Geelong on Twitter @Comm4Geelong.



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