Engineers Australia welcomes the government’s National Innovation and Science Agenda as a strong step towards a high-tech, knowledge-based future, but cautions it is only the first step of many.
“The government should be applauded for its direction and Engineers Australia agrees: it is time for Australia to move from an economy based on mines, to one based on minds,” said CEO of Engineers Australia Stephen Durkin.
“To redefine Australia as a culture which values science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM), and cultivates ideas from concept through to customer, will take a sustained effort across all areas of government and industry.
“Expanding STEM opportunities for women is a welcome focus of the government’s agenda, particularly in engineering where only 11.2% of our workforce is female. We have been significantly underutilizing this part of our highly skilled workforce for too long. Enabling women who wish to pursue STEM careers is an important factor in economic and productivity growth.
“Expanding current gender equity programs for research institutions is significant, but we need action in STEM-based industry too. We need to retain our current workers through initiatives which make childcare more accessible, support truly flexible working arrangements and educate management in how best to re-integrate parents returning to the workforce in stimulating, career building roles.
“Engineers Australia commends the government for recognising the importance of ICT to our future economy, pledging to upskill teachers to teach this growing subject. However, with high school participation rates in science and maths falling, we can’t lose sight of getting the basics right.
“Teachers play a pivotal role in developing student attitudes with STEM subjects yet many teachers are not themselves confident in teaching science and maths because their own education has been in other areas. We must empower our teachers to instill passion and confidence in young students not just in ICT, but in all STEM subjects.
“The government has outlined some admirable initiatives in its National Innovation and Science Agenda and it certainly is a step in the right direction, but it is the first step of many,” Mr Durkin said.