High school students in Karratha and Roebourne were able to gain an insight into university life and careers in STEM when a team from The University of Western Australia visited the region last week.
With women making up just 16 per cent of Australia’s STEM-skilled workforce and only 10 per cent of people in the Pilbara completing a Bachelor degree or higher (compared to 20.5 per cent in the Perth metropolitan area), the visit aimed to engage students and raise awareness of the opportunities available at university.
The program is an initiative of two equity programs at UWA - Aspire UWA and Girls in Engineering – which carry out workshops to increase university aspirations, in particular STEM courses, for high school students.
During the visits, school students took part in activities including working within budget constraints to optimise food, housing, energy and population growth, and measured teeth of the Megalodon, an extinct species of big toothed shark that lived millions of years ago, to determine the beast’s size. The activities were designed to teach students how STEM professionals solve complex problems.
UWA Manager Student Equity Tara Broadhurst said although progress was being made, there was still a lack of understanding among many high school students about STEM and the career pathways it could lead to, so raising awareness was important.
“There are many barriers preventing school students from considering science and engineering jobs and still a large under representation of women.”Tara Broadhurst
“Some of these include stereotypes that start at a young age about who is best suited to the field. There is still unfortunately the belief that STEM is a field better suited to men, which inhibits women considering a career in the field.
“With lack of women working in STEM, there are less role models for young women, so this cements stereotypes in the field.
“There is also a lack of understanding about what careers are available in STEM fields – the career options are growing and continue to grow with the rapid changes in technology. For example, when students think of working as an engineer, they often don’t consider areas like biomedical engineering.”
For more information about student equity initiatives is available at UWA, visit the UWA student equity website.