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Building a pipeline of future STEM professionals

80 per cent of the alumni of the Aboriginal Summer School for Excellence in Technology and Science (ASSETS) program are still in STEM education or career pathways. So it is no surprise that the CSIRO Indigenous STEM Education Project recently won the coveted 2020 Australian Museum Eureka Prize for STEM Inclusion citing student participation, aspiration and achievement in STEM as key achievements. 

And the accolades continue, with CSIRO awarding the Project the CSIRO Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Engagement Impact Excellence Medal for working in partnership with schools and communities to establish best practice education models. The BHP Foundation was the proud recipient of the CSIRO Industry Partner Award for enabling a Project that has made such a tangible difference to thousands of young Indigenous lives.

Over the past six years, the BHP Foundation has partnered with CSIRO on this Project and it aim was simple but ambitious. It sought to increase interest and academic achievement among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students in STEM subjects and related professions.  

Impressive results are being seen across the Project, including:

  • The ASSETS program provided unique and creative opportunities for high-achieving Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Year 10 students to explore available STEM study and career options. Following participation in the residential school, 93% of students had a good understanding of STEM careers, 79% wanted to study STEM at University, and 74% intended to have a STEM career.
  • The Inquiry for Indigenous Science Students provided opportunities for students in Years 5 to 9 in metropolitan and regional schools to increase engagement and achievement in science. Over 10,000 students have benefitted from this program, and for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students who were assessed as D or E in achievement before the inquiry, 44% improved their results after participation.
  • The Science Pathways for Indigenous Communities program supported remote Indigenous communities and schools to improve STEM education outcomes.  Participating schools within nearly 30 communities now use a two-way science approach, and Indigenous staff and Elders now have more roles in the planning and delivery of two-way science in schools.

CSIRO Acting Director for Education and Outreach, Susan Burchill, said this Project is all about delivering long-term positive outcomes.

“To date, more than 22,100 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students, 2,141 teachers 233 schools have been involved.

For the students involved, it’s resulted in greater interest and academic achievement in STEM subjects, and an increase in students looking to pursue a career in STEM, which we know is critical to building the skills to secure economic prosperity for future generations."