Globalisation, economic reforms and technological improvements are changing the nature of work and the types of jobs that will be available in the future – and science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) skills will play a major role. In order to have young people entering the labour market with the capability to meet the growing demand for workers with STEM skills, we need to increase the number of students undertaking STEM studies in senior secondary school, and then in post-secondary education and training.
The P-TECH styled model offers students studying for their Senior Secondary Certificate an industry supported pathway to a STEM related diploma, advanced diploma or degree. Students then have the option to continue their study at the tertiary level or pursue employment in a STEM related field, including job opportunities with the school’s industry partners. Students participating in a P-TECH styled model study regular high school subjects such as English, science, and mathematics, while also undertaking an advanced STEM learning program with support from the school’s industry partners. Industry support could include: opportunities for students to engage in authentic work-based learning; provision of structured work placements; apprenticeships/traineeships; paid internships; or part time work.
While the P-TECH styled model can be adapted by local education, industry and community partners to suit local circumstances, the overarching aim of a P-TECH styled learning program is to build the technical and non-technical skills students need to succeed in school, further education and work. Throughout the learning program, industry are involved in the design and delivery of learning (both at school and in the workplace). The P-TECH styled learning program matches each student with an industry mentor in years 1-3 of the program and provides opportunities for students to connect their learning to real life applications. Mentors work closely with teaching staff and help guide students through practical projects and problem solving exercises that extend their learning beyond the classroom and build students’ understanding of the world of work.
A P-TECH styled learning program involves an introductory phase to enable young people to connect and engage with the school’s industry partners, and build the foundation skills students will need to succeed in the increasingly rigorous later years of their study. A key focus of the introductory phase is to ignite young people’s interest in STEM and build their understanding of the range of STEM related careers. Following the introductory phase, and with support from an industry mentor and the school’s industry partners, secondary students undertake more formal STEM training as part of a nationally recognised qualification (e.g. Certificate III or IV). This qualification will put them on a pathway to post-school studies at a diploma, advanced diploma or associate degree level that will further strengthen their prospects for employment.
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