Inaugural STEM conference engages young minds

Fifty percent of current primary school students could one day work in careers that don’t even exist yet, according to Catholic Education Tasmania STEM Education Officer Chris Bracken.

With STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) jobs increasing at twice the rate of other occupations, a new event has been launched to engage and inspire Tasmania’s bright young minds.

The inaugural It Takes a Spark EDU conference, sponsored by Catholic Education Tasmania, was held on May 26 at Guilford Young College. It brought together students, teachers and industry leaders in an immersive day of interactive workshops.

“The event is called It Takes a Spark, and that is exactly how it feels,” Mr Bracken said.

“You can see the spark in these kids with their excitement, and their eagerness to take the next step in STEM-related activities. It was amazing to see the kids so engaged in what they were doing. They were absolutely absorbed in it.”

Mr Bracken said the severe issues caused by a shortage of STEM professionals would only increase as new jobs are created.

“There is a huge focus on how we are going to need these educated people in years to come – including doctors, engineers, scientists, IT support, science teachers, allied health and a range of other industries.

“A lot of that involves getting kids keen and enthused in STEM so they can decide on their pathway and follow it to get into STEM careers.”

With many industries already experiencing a need for STEM professionals, Mr Bracken said its integration into primary education was a high priority.

“Catholic Education Tasmania is heavily invested in STEM education, and are very supportive of it,” he said.

“There’s a range of ways they are doing that including my dedicated role, conferences, competitions and STEM lending libraries. The It Takes a Spark conference is part of the suite embracing the style of learning.”

Mr Bracken said the benefits of embedding STEM in schools offered a huge range of benefits.

“We notice the difference it makes to both teachers and students is incredibly significant,” he said.

“We are asking teachers to change the way they teach and take a leap of faith. To see them come out the other end and engage students who may not have been engaged before, catering for children with special needs, offering extension work and linking across different topics and approaches is truly amazing.”

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