Young Australians getting behind STEM career paths

Young Australians are keen on pursuing science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) subjects and careers, and these skills are seen as important to get a good job, according to a new national survey.

These were among the key findings of a survey of 2000 people aged between 12 to 25 and their attitudes to STEM.

Minister for Industry, Science and Technology Karen Andrews said most of the findings are encouraging, but the survey shows there’s more to be done to inspire girls and young women to embrace STEM study and through to their careers.

“As an engineer myself, it’s very encouraging the study found our youth think scientists make a positive difference to the world, and young women want to use STEM to make a difference.

“Females – more than males – are driven to study STEM subjects by an ambition to change the world, but interest and confidence in these subjects is strongly divided along gender lines,” said Andrews.

From early in their education, the survey found that boys were significantly more likely to choose STEM electives. For Years 9 and 10, 70 per cent of boys chose to study at least one STEM elective, compared to 32 per cent of girls.

There were also marked gender differences in the intentions of students in Years 11 and 12 to study these subjects in higher education, particularly for engineering and technology courses, and computing and information technology courses.

Andrews said the government is determined to increase the participation of girls and women in STEM fields.

“Our range of initiatives include the appointment of award-winning astrophysicist Professor Lisa Harvey-Smith as Australia’s first Women in STEM Ambassador with a key goal to raise the profile of girls and women in STEM in order to increase participation.

“In addition, the Girls in STEM Toolkit would help girls in upper primary and secondary school to understand the value of the subjects and careers open to them and provide pathways to achieve their goals.”

In the 2018-19 budget, the federal government committed $4.5 million over four years to support long-term strategic approaches to encourage more women to pursue STEM education and careers.