Auckland STEM Alliance Growing a community united by science
The Auckland STEM Alliance brings together businesses, educators and government to support the development of an Auckland society with a strong focus on science and technology. Members of the Alliance work together to support activities that engage the Auckland community at all levels, creating a hub of scientific innovation, and a wider community that embraces science in everyday life.
Through the activities of the Alliance, we aim to increase participation in STEM learning at primary school, and participation in STEM subjects at secondary and tertiary education levels in Auckland, supporting the development of a relevantly trained workforce to meet future business needs. We anticipate this will have a knock-on effect of increasing the level of scientific understanding across the whole Auckland community and allow Aucklanders to engage in informed discussion on science-related issues.
The Auckland STEM Alliance aims to advocate for, and facilitate the connection of communities and science businesses in the Auckland region for locally employed, science-skilled youth of today, in the future.
Since early 2015, the Auckland STEM Alliance has been focussing on its flagship project, SouthSci - the Participatory Science Platform, South Auckland pilot; co-hosted with COMET Auckland.
Science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) subjects are increasingly important to our economic competitiveness because of the vital role they play in developing new technologies, high value products and an innovative economy.
Currently, Auckland is facing an employment market shortage in STEM related industries, driving a need for a more skilled workforce.
Research shows that the business sector is unlikely to engage with schools on STEM subjects directly. Instead, opportunities should be fostered so the sector can support intermediary organisations (often industry-led) to arrange scholarships, internships, competitions and events – making the intermediary organisations an important part of the STEM education landscape.
COMET Auckland is involved in the following initiatives, addressing current and future STEM industry needs:
More young people in South Auckland will have the opportunity to enter an exciting career in science, under a contract with the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment.
COMET Auckland, on behalf of the Auckland STEM Alliance, is one of three groups around New Zealand to be awarded the MBIE ‘Science in Society’ contract. Providers in Otago and Taranaki will also roll out the initiative.
At present, there is not enough being done to engage, inspire and support young people into science careers. With STEM skills in high demand and skills shortages across New Zealand, if this trend continues there will be insufficient science knowledge and skills to support future economic development and community well-being.
The Alliance will be the glue between young learners and authentic, research-based experiences with scientists, which we are confident will inspire and encourage the next generation of scientific minds and leaders.
The Alliance has worked extremely hard for two years now, to increase participation in STEM subjects at secondary and tertiary education levels in Auckland, so the pilot project is a natural extension of their work. The more science conversations there are, at home, at school, and in the community, the more likely people are to consider science as a pathway for their future.
The Alliance steering group is made up of COMET Auckland, Fisher & Paykel Healthcare, NIWA, Liggins Institute, Plant and Food Research and the Auckland University Faculty of Science. It is also supported by a wide number of other science organisations, schools and businesses. The Southern Initiative and ATEED have also partnered with the Alliance to expand the reach and depth of community and business networks supporting science education within South Auckland.
You can hear more about this exciting project here:
In mid 2015 we will be seeking proposals for community-based science projects that connect South Auckland young people and/or communities with real scientific research that relates to real issues in their communities. Watch this space for more information on how to apply.
From 2012, Auckland Council and COMET Auckland have aligned with government recommendations by organising workshops to connect STEM businesses and research organisations to explore their interest and roles in supporting STEM skills developmentin Auckland.
A key outcome of these cross-sector conversations has been identifying different platforms across the education sector to support STEM education:
In schools: There is a need for ‘real world experiences’ that have relevance and are practically based. The focus therefore needs to be more on science at the primary level.
Teachers: There was agreement about the need for students to go ‘deep’ even at a young age and it was recognised that confidence in teaching science could be a challenge for primary school teachers in particular.
Parents: Were seen as an important part of the equation and it is important to support parents to give their children science-rich experiences.
Careers Information: There was a perception among workshop participants that young people needed better information on careers and a better understanding of why science is important in everyday life e.g. keeping healthy.
Media: Engaging with the media around STEM subjects was also seen as important and the use of social media to build dialogue and grow engagement was emphasised.
These workshops established the premise for the expansion of a broader, formalised Auckland STEM Alliance. The ASA is aimed at driving innovation-led economic growth and supporting a workforce skilled in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) to meet industry needs.
As a first step, we released the STEM Stocktake Report which evaluated the Auckland climate in regards to support STEM education. This report also established a broad strategic plan of the Alliance, and identified strategies to increase engagement in STEM education.
For more information, please utilise the documents below related to the work COMET Auckland is doing in STEM education: