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When I was a teenager, my Mum left every single educational choice up to me with one proviso: somewhere in there, I had to do maths and science.
It was the best thing she ever did for me. Yes, at uni I did arts (they had the fewest hours and best parties), but then I went back to do economics and statistics as a postgraduate. Having that breadth of knowledge has opened up the whole world to me – as Mum always told me, I can do anything.
This country has its priorities so messed up when it comes to STEM. As every Australian parent knows, there’s more emphasis on weekend sport than there is on math and science in primary school.
This is so important because it’s about instilling a baseline of knowledge that every person needs to be successful as we move into a data-saturated world.
All businesses are all going to be data driven businesses, and the non- STEM kids will be cleaning the floors of those businesses (assuming a machine hasn’t taken over that job).
Getting kids excited about STEM
The emphasis in other countries, even the US, on math and science is so significantly different it puts this country to shame. We need to address the culture of maths and science, and get kids excited about it.
The first thing that goes wrong with STEM is that the subjects aren’t perceived as an exciting and challenging area of education. In our culture at the moment football and netball are way more attractive options.
We should be doing the same for math and science as we do for sport: get in at the grassroots level. Offer after-school activities that celebrate science in a fun way with cool experiments – let the kids blow stuff up! Once kids learn and get excited about it, they stay with it.
It has to start early though, because like sport, there comes an age when it’s too late. Fundamentally, if you never learn your times tables you are not going to become a quantum physicist.
There’s no better way to guarantee your kids a job
There will be 400 articles published this month about how AI is going to disrupt jobs. But I can guarantee you there will be millions of jobs producing that AI, and those jobs will go to people who studied STEM subjects.
By putting kids into maths and science, you’re guaranteeing them the best chance at a job. If we don’t prepare our workforce for a maths and science future then we are going to be left behind, because these are jobs that can be outsourced; many are transferable overseas.
So what are we doing about it?
This is not a purely altruistic article on my part. STEM talent means a lot to Yellowfin, because obviously we hire people with maths and science backgrounds. As we continue to grow, we need more and more local STEM talent.
To this end, we put our money where our mouth is. I regularly go to universities to do careers fairs and give talks on analytics. We run a great internship program to give students and graduates a taste of what is possible, and the kind of roles that exist in STEM careers. We sponsor hackathons and Data Girls events, encouraging girls and women into coding and maths and science.
But… we are also continually looking for more things to do as an organization. If you’re active in this space and think that we can add value to what you do, we would definitely love to talk to you.