Ask a student this question today and you’re sure to get a very different answer to someone from 20 years ago.
Where some might have said ‘mechanic’, today they might say ‘web developer’.
But there’s one response that has always stayed the same: “I don’t know”.
Salisbury High School’s Rebecca Ludewig understands how difficult it can be for young people to find a career, particularly in today’s rapidly changing market.
The South Australian teacher also knows that tomorrow’s workforce needs a specific set of capabilities to participate in the new economy – and STEM education is a key part of preparing them for the modern workplace.
But for many students, it can be difficult to see the connection between what they learn at school and a future career in STEM.
Ludewig was particularly dismayed to see that her Indigenous students weren’t going on to study STEM in the senior grades.
In search of a solution, she decided to organise an Aboriginal STEM learning day – a meet and greet event where Indigenous students could find out more about careers in the STEM sector.
The school invited mentors from the Indigenous community who are working in STEM to share their experiences with the students in a speed-dating style event.
“...the kids went around to the tables and just got an opportunity to talk; there was nothing said about what they had to talk about,” Ludewig says.
The day was designed to give students a broader idea of the STEM industry – outside the more traditional roles that most of us associate with the acronym.
Students asked the mentors about their interest in a STEM career, their inspiration and how they got to where they are now.
Ludewig says it was invaluable for the students “to have people to look up to; to say ‘look - they’ve done it, we can do it [too]’.”
And many of them were surprised to learn that there was no clear-cut path to success.
“...Not all of these people had gone to university but they’d still got to where they wanted to get to.
And so [it’s] for kids to understand that university is not the path for everyone – there are lots of ways to get to those careers,” Ludewig says.