Fifty-four female school students will head back to the classroom this week to take part in a special science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) Summer School to nurture, mentor and encourage their involvement in the innovative jobs of the future.

Minister for Education and Training Senator Simon Birmingham said programmes like the Summer Schools for STEM Students reflected the Turnbull Government’s Innovation and Science Agenda’s focus on better equipping female students for the jobs of the future.

Minister Birmingham said the Turnbull Government’s $850,000 three-year commitment to the project came in response to concerns female school students’ participation in STEM subjects has fallen to its lowest level in 20 years.

“Three-quarters of the fastest-growing occupations in Australia require skills in science, engineering, technology and maths,” Minister Birmingham said.

“A recent report found only 52 per cent of year 10 students attained a proficient standard in information and communication technology literacy studies in 2014, compared with 65 per cent in 2011 – a 13 per cent decline.

“We need to turn this around and increase the number of students – particularly girls and women – enrolling in science, technology, engineering and maths subjects at school and university, as well as in vocational education and training.

“The support for the ‘Curious Minds’ Summer Schools programme follows the Turnbull Government’s $48 million commitment in this week’s Innovation and Science Agenda to foster a passion in students to embrace the digital age, engage with science and maths in the early years and prepare for the jobs of the future.”

Minister Birmingham said the ‘Curious Minds’ Summer Schools for STEM Students project provides opportunities for 54 high-achieving female school students from around Australia, including four Indigenous students, to attend a national summer school at Australian National University, Canberra, focusing on the STEM fields – followed by mentoring in students’ specific areas of interest.

Minister for Women Senator Michaelia Cash said it was critical to attract more women to STEM industries and the Government’s first year commitment of $250,000 would solely focus on female students. 

“Supporting women to find the science, technology and maths jobs of the future is not only good for the individual who benefits – it is good for gender diversity, good for business and good for the economy,” Minister Cash said.

“The passion and enthusiasm that these 54 high-achieving female students have for science, technology, engineering and maths subjects is something that we must nurture and promote.

“By embracing the immense opportunities that exist in STEM industries we can help reduce the gender pay gap, improve women’s financial security and ensure the next generation is equipped to fill the jobs of the 21st century.”

Minister Cash said The ‘Summer Schools for STEM Students Project’ is coordinated by the Australian Mathematics Trust in collaboration with Australian Science Innovations and will run from 2015 to 2018. All students participating in the first phase of the project are female and currently in years 8-10. 

The first residential workshop will be held at ANU from 9 to 13 December.

Senator Birmingham’s media contact: James Murphy 0478 333 974
Senator Cash’s media contact: David De Garis 0427 019 692