Following recently released digital rankings that show Australia has dropped from ninth position to 14th in the World Digital Competitiveness League, STEM educator STEM Punks is calling for an increased focus on STEM skills by all Australians.
According to STEM Punks, the October digital rankings by Swiss-based International Institute for Management Development show that Australia’s complacency in STEM skills is putting the country’s future economic standing in jeopardy, and leaving the door open for neighbouring countries to take their position as regional powerhouses.
STEM Punks, which was named Queensland Emerging and Energised Telstra Business Award winner 2019, is pushing for continued focus on digital literacy training. It says that only particular Australian demographics are embracing and pushing for these skills.
STEM Punks Managing Director, Michael Holmstrom, said his experience of STEM skills being highly valued by migrants from Asian countries was confirmed by the international league table, which showed the STEM educational prowess and pride in Asian countries.
Mr Holmstrom said unless STEM skills were embraced by all Australians the country was at risk of falling further down the league table and individuals were at risk of missing out on well-paying jobs in the future.
“Considering Australia’s history in using STEM skills for world-changing inventions in the past, I’m surprised we don’t hold these skills in the high regard we should,” Mr Holmstrom said.
“We invented the black box flight recorder, spray-on skin for burns’ victims, the electronic pacemaker, the cochlear implant, the ultrasound scanner, Gardasil and Cervarix cancer vaccines, Google Maps, and wi-fi technology. We should be proud of our past innovations and look to the future about how we can continue to lead in this area.”
He added that 75 per cent of the fastest growing occupations in Australia require STEM skills, and that in the next five years 90 per cent of the existing workforce will need a basic level of digital literacy.
“If we look at our neighbours: Singapore, for example has 54 per cent of its students performing advanced level of maths. Australia has only seven percent. Singapore, Hong Kong and South Korea invest in STEM skills and value those skills more than Australia does,” Mr Holmstrom added.
“What we see in Australia is that Australians don’t have perspective on how critical STEM skills are for their personal future economic stability, and the nation’s prosperity.
“We can’t expect to solve real-word challenges and address complex world problems if we don’t have people with the skills to innovate, design, and creatively problem solve issues such as energy sustainability and medical advancements. We need STEM skills.”
He added that while there isn’t a lack of ideas in the world, he believes there is a lack of a mindset based on innovation, creativity and entrepreneurship to transform these ideas into value for other people.
“A snapshot of Australia’s workforce shows that 50 per cent will need to know how to use, build, and configure digital systems by 2022; 70 per cent of today’s students are training for a job that is set to be replaced by automation in the next eight to 13 years; and 18 percent of today’s workforce have a serious chance of losing their job because of technology. We need to start a serious campaign to increase our STEM skills and the importance and value we place on learning these skills,” explained Mr Holmstrom.