by DAWN BENNETT
Linking higher education funding to a single industry is not in the interest of Australia’s future.
Here are the facts.
Australians have about seven different careers and 17 different jobs over their lifetime. Over 15 per cent of Australians work more than one job. Two million Australians change careers every year and the same number are self-employed.
Do we work in the discipline we studied? Only sometimes. Australia’s top CEOs are more likely to have a science degree than one in commerce. And Fortune 100 CEOs are as likely to hold a BA or BSc as they are to have a business degree. We change work and apply our expertise in line with demand, interest and expertise. Few careers are solely in STEM, the arts or anything else.
The STEM acronym made no sense even before COVID-19: over 30 per cent of STEM positions belong to non-STEM occupations and one-sixth of jobs advertised in non-STEM occupations are STEM-related roles (Grinis, 2019).
Normalising employment rates across STEM disciplines is also non-sensical – on July 16, SEEK listed 12,807 engineering jobs and 8 in physics. Of 698 maths positions, 99 per cent were in teaching.
In short, STEM students and graduates form are only part of the future STEM workforce.
Ideally, all degrees would have a common major in life and a specialisation in line with student interest and aptitude. We would learn how to learn and how to predict what to learn next. We would understand who we are and how we can contribute both economically and socially. And we would learn how to negotiate a complex labour market.
We need graduates to be career and life ready, not job ready – confident and able to tackle both the usual and the unthinkable. What teaching and learning needs now is Government policy which thinks beyond discipline boundaries and enables all Australians to make a difference.
Professor Dawn Bennett, Curtin University
National Teaching Fellowship 2010; Senior Teaching Fellowship 2016
Twitter: @toemployability; @careerequity
ALTF 2019 Legacy Report here