Thousands of local students to be inspired into a STEM career with new Federally funded program

Up to 5,000 students in the Sunshine Coast, Wide Bay, and Central Queensland will be inspired to take up a career in Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) thanks to a University of the Sunshine Coast (USC) program funded with a grant of $524,455 by the Morrison Government. The Make Integrate & Explore (MIE) Lab project sends presenters into schools to deliver hands-on experiences for students and training for teachers to inspire more young people to take up a career in the emerging fields of the future.

Federal Member for Fisher Andrew Wallace said that inspiring more local students into STEM will play a big role in making the Sunshine Coast the place to be for education, employment and retirement.

“As we look forward from COVID-19, we need to diversify our local economy and that means encouraging growth in new sectors like cutting edge healthcare and high-tech manufacturing. The coming decades are going to see more of these smart jobs of the future here on the Coast, and this Federally funded project is going to make a big difference to ensuring that we have the young people in our community ready to take them on.” Mr Wallace said.

The MIE Lab program provides evidence based early interventions in schools focussing on crystalising students’ burgeoning interest in science and technology; helping students to recognise their abilities and potential in STEM; breaking down gender stereotypes to encourage more girls to pursue these careers; and demonstrating the relevance of STEM study to getting a great future job.

“We need to help our young people, and especially our young women, to recognise that studying STEM can lead to a fulfilling career and a place as one of the leaders of the future here on the Coast. This project is going to do just that and I am delighted to support it. My message to young people on the Coast is, you can do it!” he said.

This funding will extend the reach of the MIE Lab program to engage with 5,000 more students across 50 additional schools. The funding will also support the presentation of 15 STEM-focused career education workshops for parents and carers in the region.

MIE Lab Coordinator and USC Lecturer Natalie McMaster said that the expansion of the MIE Lab program would make a big difference for students, teachers and parents alike.

“The University of the Sunshine Coast’s MIE Lab program inspires Year 4 to 10 students to engage with science and technology education, to think about where a career in STEM could take them and to believe in their ability to get there. We are excited to get started using this Federal Government funding to expand the program’s reach right across the region.” Ms McMaster said. 

“Beyond our work with students the program also includes professional development courses for teachers and online workshops for parents to ensure that the lasting benefits are felt across our community.”

“We are not a ‘show to wow students’, we are an evidence-based approach to early positive inquiry-based, hands-on experiences with STEM activities. Our research is already showing the positive effects this can have on expectations for success, aspirations, and STEM education and careers choices among students, especially for girls.” she said. 

As part of round two of the Partnership Grants program, the Morrison Government has committed $5.8 million to 16 projects around the country, including this project at USC, all chosen to help organisations deliver innovative career guidance services to a wide range of Australians.

Round three applications will open on 20 October, with an additional $10 million of grants on offer focussing on improving career pathways and information for women, particularly in non-traditional industries and occupations.

For more information on the Partnership Grants Program visit the National Careers Institute at www.dese.gov.au/nci and for more information about MIE Lab visit https://mielab.edu.au/

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