School-business partnerships work best when they follow seven key principles

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Even though all school-business partnerships aren't the same, successful partnerships share similar characteristics. We've outlined 7 key principles for school-business partnerships below:


The descriptions of the 7 principles have been adapted from the original Guiding Principles and include guidance from the Australian Industry Group’s School-Industry STEM Skills Partnerships.

1. Partnerships should enhance student STEM and 21st century skills learning and outcomes

What How
Student STEM and 21st century skills learning and outcomes are identified as the priority in the partnership.
  • Make student outcomes a clear objective in written agreements.
  • Recognise and include STEM best practice in activities.
  • Include student objectives in all monitoring and evaluation plans.
  • Create activities with planned student learning / outcome objectives.
  • Build capabilities of partners in STEM education through mentoring or professional learning.
  • Co-design classroom content.

2. Partnerships should benefit schools and businesses

What How
Understand and work towards benefits for each partner.
  • Clearly set out expected benefits in agreements.
  • Enable transparent communication about intended benefits.
  • Run initial workshops / discussions about benefits and expectations.
  • Aim for activities that include the opportunity to maximise school and business benefits.

3. Partnerships should be built on strong foundations with a shared vision and objectives

What How
  • Partners have a strong sense of what they are trying to achieve, e.g. through goals, accountability and evaluation.
  • Partnerships are sustainable and strong enough to overcome barriers.
  • Create joint strategy that includes processes around decision-making, immediate to long-term goals, roles and responsibilities.
  • Design evaluation frameworks to measure student / partnership outcomes.
  • Document benefits / outcomes of partnership.
  • Set achievable and flexible guidelines for the partnership.
  • Celebrate partnership achievements.

4. Partnerships should have the support of the school community

What How
  • Effective partnerships have clear support / endorsement from school leaders, teachers, parents and students.
  • The school community understands the purpose and value of the partnership.
  • Promote partnership and its benefits within the school community e.g. create literature for parents that describes the benefits and importance of STEM and STEM careers, or provide information through newsletters and events.
  • Maintain communication with school community about student STEM activities and outcomes.
  • Consider opportunities to involve the school community in STEM education initiatives, e.g. exhibition days.

5. Partnerships should be embedded in school and business cultures

What How
  • Partnerships are embedded in organisational cultures to ensure they succeed over time.
  • Include the partnership in standard operational structures and processes.
  • Have communication protocols / processes e.g. who key contacts are, process for letting partners know about key personnel changes.
  • Meet frequently to build trust, mutual respect and understanding of each other's culture.
  • Ensure roles and responsibilities are clear.
  • If appropriate, embed partnership through formal documentation e.g. partnership agreements or memorandum of understanding.
  • Ensure partnership activities are integrated into the school curriculum / business calendar.

6. Partnerships should have the support of school and business leadership

What How
  • Partnerships have commitment from all levels of senior leadership across both organisations e.g. business CEO / school leadership.
  • Commitment should also include support from other key levels e.g. department managers, human resource areas, executive staff and teachers.
  • Engage and / or involve senior leadership in discussions in select meetings about partnership.
  • Confirm commitment and support from principal and department heads / parent organisations in written agreements.
  • Ensure senior leaders are aware of commitments required e.g. shared resources.
  • Where possible, involve senior leaders in key milestone events.
  • Where possible, align partnerships with existing state or national policies that support STEM collaborations.
  • Contingency planning for changes of leadership.

7. Partnerships should be adequately resourced by both schools and businesses

What How
  • Both partners contribute resources to partnership.
  • Resources may be tangible or intangible and include money, facilities, staffing, time, energy, skills and expertise.
  • Identify expected resource contribution early and assess availability / capacity for partners to contribute.
  • Include expectations and understandings in written agreements / joint strategies.