Growing new careers from STEM

How the NBN Co STEM+X initiative will help provide our children with the foundation for success in the coming years.

Here at NBN Co, my colleagues and I are passionate about helping to bridge the digital divide, especially for Australian students. To this end, we’re continually working to help ensure primary and high schoolers are able to access quality online education resources, cutting-edge tools and whatever technology the future may bring.

As part of our role in providing the infrastructure to support the education of tomorrow’s workforce, we recognise the importance of STEM and STEM-X.

Why STEM-X matters for Australian students

The term ‘STEM’ relates to the fields of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics.

At present, Australian children are being encouraged to build their skills in these areas. This will better prepare them for future employment opportunities and help to fill the looming knowledge gap across industries.

Traditionally, the education system has taught STEM subjects separately. Today, though, a more integrated approach is being sought out. Instead of relying on theory, children are challenged to draw knowledge from all areas of STEM to solve real-world problems.

To take STEM a step further, ‘STEM-X’ refers to applying STEM-related disciplines to your own personal interests. For children, this is extra important as it helps make learning more relatable and enjoyable.

For example, cooking is a great way to encourage children to learn about science. Playing with LEGO can foster an interest in construction. And gardening stimulates their interest in agriculture and the environment.

The unique thing about STEM-based education is that it enables students to experiment, test ideas, take risks and create a knowledge base that’s applicable in real life. It also leads them towards a creative way of thinking, which is highly important in the workforce.

The NBN Co STEM+X initiative

To get students excited about building STEM skills and combining learning with their hobbies and passions, NBN Co has partnered with the Australian Business Community Network (ABCN) on the NBN Co STEM+X initiative.

This multifaceted program aims to help equip young Australians with STEM skills, regardless of where they are located.

To begin with, eight schools have been selected to take part. These schools are all classified as ‘high-need’, with students set to benefit from learning about the breadth of opportunity that STEM subjects offer.

Getting students involved

The initial phase of our STEM+X initiative will be rolled out over a five-month period. It will begin with hands-on workshops designed to give students real-life STEM experiences. These workshops will be led by ABCN facilitators, as well as mentors from NBN Co.

The initiative will also provide online educational resources that are designed to equip parents with the tools needed to support STEM learning at home. The content is interactive and encourages kids to apply STEM to the subjects they are interested in, such as fashion, music, sport or design.

After the workshop, kids will be invited to take part in the ‘Futurists’ Fair’ – a virtual learning competition. This will give them the opportunity to present their STEM ideas to a panel of industry professionals. Using our technology, students will present these ideas in real-time via live video link.

I am thrilled to be part of the judging panel for the Futurists’ Fair alongside Allegra Spender, CEO of ABCN, and Brett and Scott, hosts of the inspiring YouTube series, How Ridiculous. We will be giving each school ten minutes to present an idea they believe will benefit their community before selecting the winning team.

The exciting prize is a visit from those YouTube celebrities, Brett and Scott. They will visit the winning school to lead a STEM lesson and conduct one of their world-famous science projects. This is a wonderful opportunity for kids to see how STEM can be applied in the real world.

Allegra Spender, CEO of the Australian Business and Community Network, will join NBN Co's Kathrine Dyer on the judging panel for the Futurists’ Fair.

NBN Co: facilitating a digital future

By the year 2030, one in two Australians are predicted to need online skills in programming, software development and digital technology building to remain competitive in the job market.

This is why it’s vital the entire community encourages the learning of STEM skills, and why access to our network is fundamental to supporting the education of tomorrow’s workforce in STEM subjects.

As we continue working towards bridging the digital divide, one of our goals is to improve the connectivity of remote and rural communities. With the NBN Co STEM+X initiative, not only are we providing better connectivity, we’re also showing young students how to make use of online technology and expand their future employment opportunities.