Think about what you wanted as a career when you were at school. If you are like the vast majority of Australians, you would have been encouraged to pursue a career in law or medicine.
Back then, and to a certain extent now, the education systems and society as a whole encourages students to prepare for the jobs of the past, not the jobs of the future.
In 2014, research revealed that a significant portion of future jobs in the nation within the next five to ten years will require skills related to Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM).
Of these future jobs, 70 per cent will specifically require knowledge and practical application of coding, according to Australia’s chief scientist, Ian Chubb.
This gap is already being felt in the industry as universities and tafe struggle to produce the number of industry ready graduates.
From a private sector approach, encouraging the education system and getting more people involved in the initiative will pay dividends for the industry and country, according to AWS Asia-Pacific head of architecture, Glenn Gore.
Why should the private sector care?
In order to continue to scale and grow, private industry depends on the pipeline of talented individuals coming in the next generation, Gore told ARN.
“If education is not producing that pipeline, then the whole industry has a problem. Australia has a problem,” he said.
STEM has been on the Cloud company’s agenda for a while, but it was this year at the AWS Summit that the company had the space to hold the workshops in the Innovation Lab.
Consequently, the company invited primary school-aged children to participate and feel apart of the real sector.
“It’s about opening the children’s eyes to allow them to make an informed decision when they think about what subjects they are going for and have a play at university choices,” he said.
“If you look at the IT industry as a whole, I think we can do a much better job of showing students what a career in technology looks like. I think there is a lot of misinformation about how it is to work in technology. The truth is, it is all about cross-discipline now.”
The Innovation Lab housed children from Chatswood High School and via workshop-style exercises like design thinking, the Lab exposed alternative ways to perceive the technology sector and experience real life application of STEM skills to solve social scenarios.
One activity in particular, involved AWS posing the question to students in groups, how by using technology, might we create a healthier life in Australia?
According to Chatswood High School computing teacher, Leonora Carr, the activity was successful in its method of showing that by brainstorming ideas, children can learn ways to be be innovative in applying ICT and STEM skills to actualise and create solutions.
“It’s about showing the kids ways to invent something new and be innovative, when often that can be a scary or overwhelming idea,” said Carr.
“There is a lot of interest in the younger years and this is because they don’t get to do this type of stuff in their normal curriculum.”
Carr said there is a strong technology culture within Chatswood High School. This is evidenced by the school's partnership with The University of Sydney STEM Academy this year.
According to Carr, the strong tech culture is also nurtured by after school offerings like programming club.
“The club has existed in many different forms. It is my seventh year at the school and it has been running ever since I have been there. Except for this year so far, it has been run by ex students. This is good because the kids look up to them as peers and it takes the pressure off the teachers, because we can give the kids the freedom to explore what they want to do,” she said.
“At the moment I am working with them, some of the students who have been doing it previously have now moved onto Google and Atlassian.”
For Gore, getting students excited about technology at a young age is key to increasing the country’s competitiveness on a global scale.
“If a ten year old starts, by the time they’re 14, that is four years of experience they could have already got,” he explained.
“That is a powerful thought when you think about what that means as you come through the education system and hit the industry. That is what I am excited by - making it easier and easier.”
“I look at kids and I think, they’re just like a blank canvas. Think big, think up massive world-changing ideas and give it a go. You just never know what you might achieve, you really don’t.”