How can schools and businesses partner for STEM education?

On this page:

In this section you will learn:

  • The benefits of school-business partnerships
  • What schools and businesses can bring to partnerships
  • What works best for school-business partnerships
  • Roles businesses can play in STEM education initiatives

School-business partnerships benefit students, schools and industry

Partnerships benefit students by:

  • Promoting an understanding of the real world of work.
  • Inspiring excitement and motivation about STEM.
  • Creating a link between the relevance of their education and their life after school.
  • Equipping students with skills they need to succeed in life and work e.g. 21st century skills and knowledge.
  • Raising awareness of diverse career / further education opportunities.

Partnerships benefit schools by:

  • Enhancing and complementing curriculum content e.g. applying theory to real-world contexts.
  • Providing opportunities for students to access the real world of work.
  • Increasing access to internal / external resources.
  • Building capability of school leaders and teachers in STEM / industry.

Partnerships benefit industry by:

  • Actively addressing business skill shortages / pipeline:
    • Inspire students to select subjects that reflect skill needs / gaps.
    • Promote need for wide range of capabilities e.g. not just subject matter but also 21st century skills.
  • Promoting importance and relevance of STEM opportunities / pathways.
  • Creating positive exposure for business / brand.
  • Contributing to development of young people.
  • Adding value to local industry.
  • Improving community reputation of business.
  • Learning about and understanding education sector.

When schools and businesses realise shared opportunities, both sectors can make unique contributions to the partnership:

What schools bring

  • Education and teaching expertise
  • Access to students/links to wider community
  • Curious and engaged teachers and students

Shared interests

  • Helping students understand STEM's role in work and life
  • Increase Australia's capabilities and skills for the future
  • Effective and valuable partnerships
  • Connected STEM knowledge and experience
  • Improving student STEM engagement and achievement

What businesses bring

  • Venues and resources to support novel STEM experiences
  • Real world challenges and context for students
  • STEM professionals who can act as mentors/role models
  • Access to cutting edge technology
  • Capacity to fund initiatives of value
  • Knowledge of career opportunities/networks

There are many different kinds of school-business partnerships

School-business partnerships take many forms. There is no one-size-fits-all approach. They can:

  • Differ in length: Long-term e.g. over one year, medium-term e.g. a few months, or short-term e.g. one day.
  • Differ in number of partners: There may be multiple schools involved, or multiple businesses.
  • Differ in types of partners: Businesses may be a global firm or a local firm, schools may be big, small, regional or metro.
  • Differ in activities / programs: Not all partnerships will do the same activities, or have the same outcomes.

There are many roles businesses can play in school-business STEM partnerships. They can do one or more of the following:

Role for businessWhat does it look like?Case study
  • Show students what 'real-world' businesses / facilities look like
  • Provide a space for students to work / host activities and programs
  • Show students specialist equipment or rooms

Make it Now Engineering Challenges, Queensland Minerals and Energy Academy

Make it Now in Engineering (MINE) Challenges are an initiative of the Queensland Minerals and Energy Academy (QMEA), a partnership between the Queensland Resources Council and Queensland Government. These five-day programs are held annually at Glencore's Mount Isa Mines and BHP Billiton Mitsubishi Alliance's mines near Moranbah. Students are exposed to real-world working environments and join business mentors on site to solve real engineering problems. At the end of the week they present their findings to management. Around 15 Queensland secondary students attend each camp.

Provide real-world learning experiences
  • Base activities or programs around real world contexts and challenges
  • Expose students to business environments and facilities
  • Role-play with students e.g. students as team members / co-workers

Banksia Park International High School and BTG Australasia

Banksia Park International High School in South Australia partnered with BTG Australasia to facilitate an extended real-world STEM project for Year 8 students. This involved a student visit to BTG's laboratories, a four-week group project on contamination avoidance in BTG labs, and presentations to a panel of BTG employees and other external panellists. The project exposed students to how STEM skills can be applied to a real-world business problem. Both the school and BTG were impressed with the enthusiasm and growth of students and were eager to further the partnership.

See the report: Strengthening school-industry STEM skills partnerships for more information.

Connect with students as role models
  • Host talks / Q&As / events / activities to connect STEM professionals with students
  • Mentor students about STEM opportunities / pathways

Inspiring the Future Australia

Inspiring the Future Australia is a national campaign for career inspiration, that aims to broaden the horizons and raise the aspirations of students everywhere. It believes that young people need and want industry engagement to help them navigate their futures. Young people aspire to be what they see around them in their everyday life but it’s difficult to aspire to a future that you never see and don’t know exists. Through this campaign, young people get to see exciting futures, by meeting a variety of role models doing interesting jobs. This helps to inspire and motivate them, as well as help them to understand that aiming high, working hard and making an effort in school can help them realise their dreams.

Support teacher development
  • Seek opportunities to mentor teachers
  • Provide teachers with access to real-world scenarios / challenges
  • Co-design aspects of the curriculum

CSIRO STEM Professionals in Schools

CSIRO STEM Professionals in Schools is a national program that links teachers and STEM professionals. Drawing on the STEM professional's expertise, partners work together to bring real-world STEM into the classroom. Partnerships often incorporate teacher development, mentoring, one-on-one tutoring, site visits, career talks and hands-on learning. The program reaches more than 60,000 students per year. It has been shown to be a cost-effective means of increasing student enthusiasm and knowledge, and to develop STEM teachers.

Scale-up partner
  • Increase scope of an initiative (e.g. increase opportunities available to existing students / extending to new schools / increasing program duration)
  • Provide additional resources

STELR and Orica

STELR (Science and Technology Education Leveraging Relevance) is a national initiative of the Australian Academy of Technology and Engineering. STELR supplies schools with equipment packs and professional learning workshops to support hands-on, inquiry-based STEM learning. As STELR's principal sponsor, Orica has supported STELR's growth and helped subsidise the costs for participating schools. STELR has been implemented in more than 600 Australian schools and reaches 100,000 students a year. In a 2013 survey of STELR schools, more than 80% reported increased student science literacy and understanding.

Support school to work pathways
  • Provide access to work experience, work-based learning or work-integrated learning.
  • Engage students in a VET qualification

Pathways in Technology (P-TECH) Pilot

The Pathways in Technology (P-TECH) pilot is improving pathways to STEM-related tertiary qualifications through long-term partnerships between industry, schools and tertiary education providers. A key element of P-TECH is local industry engagement. Secondary students participating at
P-TECH sites are being introduced to jobs where STEM skills play a major role now and in the future.

In Port Stephens, Hunter River High School has partnered with Jetstar Airways, Varley Group, BAE Systems and Ampcontrol to introduce an innovative skills-based program that will focus on aeronautical and related aerospace industries. Year 9 and 10 students attend weekly workshops and undertake a pathway in advanced manufacturing and engineering, starting with a Certificate I in Engineering, Certificate II in Aero Skills or Certificate III in Aviation.

76 of the 130 students from the two original P-TECH sites selected a STEM-related pathway in 2017.