There is no doubt about it; Australia has a skills gap and needs to increase participation in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) subjects to meet the demands of its evolving job market.
Our current education system just isn’t converting enough students into modern, high-level professions such as nanotechnology and computer science – yet this represents an area of superior job growth. In fact, STEM professions are estimated to be 75% of the future workforce.
The skills shortage falls in the same decade in which Australia is trying to brand itself as a nation at the forefront of science and innovation, as it struggles to compete with the production and commodity based economies of other nations.
“Something needs to be done. We have to find a way to funnel young adults into STEM disciplines and find pathways into employment” says Rose Hiscock of Science Gallery Melbourne (and former Director of Sydney’s Powerhouse Museum). “We need to be responsible at every link in the chain to make sure young adults are enabled to take pathways in STEM”.
The introduction of a fifth domain – the Arts – into the STEM equation (to make STEAM) is a controversial but increasingly credible solution.
Some critics have laughed it off as ‘superfluous’ but, as Rose Hiscock points out, history would indicate otherwise. She cites genius Leonardo da Vinci – perhaps the best imaginable ‘poster boy’ for STEAM – to demonstrate the immense potential of a mind which is both scientific and creative. Da Vinci’s inventions – even the sketchings of his inventions – were indisputably works of art in their own right.
Image source: http://www.leonardodavincisinventions.com/
More recent examples include Apple who owe a vast portion of their success to the creative ingenuity used within their advertising campaigns and product positioning.
The collision of art and science also works at the elementary level, according to Hiscock. She argues that a sustained focus on STEAM will have an impact on productivity through to well-being.
“The evidence is clear; both the arts and the sciences make a profound contribution to the economy and our well-being.” she says.
“Creativity is common to both disciplines, however sometimes overlooked .. If we can demonstrate that arts and creativity are inherent in sciences– we will attract more students into those disciplines and deliver extraordinary outcomes. ”
Rose goes on to argue the importance of inspiration. “For all of us, there will have been a moment or experience in our lives that inspired us to take on the career that we have chosen. As teachers, adults, mentors, it is our responsibility to provide these catalysts for young people. I believe that creativity is the key ingredient, the sizzle to the steak, which will help us manufacture these inspirational moments among children and adolescents”.
Hear more from Rose Hiscock about the collision of arts and science within education, at Informa’s STEM Education Conference later this month in Melbourne.