Inquiry into School to Work Transition

iStock 537383350Date: 31 July 2017

MAV is pleased to have produced a submission to the Inquiry into school to work transition. The inquiry will look at ways to ensure students are supported from school to work by measuring gain in schools and how this contributes to supporting students for post-school education and training. The inquiry will also look at opportunities to better inform students of appropriate post-school education and training using employment outcomes as a measure of course suitability.

As the workplace changes in a future where new jobs will be invented and other jobs will either disappear or be changed due to automation and other societal effects, it is essential that a close eye is kept on the factors that are required for a successful transition from school to work. MAV in its work sees the effects of good mathematics teaching, learning and the impact this has on students moving to the workforce.

Mathematics is applied in most, if not all fields of employment, and is a crucial skill required for both university and workplace success. Student ability in and experience of mathematics education at school affects student career choices. The often-negative views of mathematics as a subject by society and factors like not having mathematics as a compulsory core subject at higher levels of schooling as compulsory, often lead students to avoid mathematics and therefore set themselves at a disadvantage from those who fully engage in mathematics at these levels in school.

Yet all students end up in workforce roles that require mathematics. It is therefore important that students are engaging with mathematics whilst studying it. MAV has experienced while delivering its own programs to students, that students who work with industry in a contextual learning environment change their views on the importance of mathematics and their future career choices.  MAV recently ran a recent ‘Girls in STEM’ day[1] supported by industry partners, and the following are just some of the responses that were received by students:

‘I found Mathematics difficult and couldn't really see why it was important in the long run. I was so wrong!’

‘I have a real passion for science and would love to become a Geologist, so attending this event allowed me to see what kind of careers I can do in the scientific field.’

‘Be prepared to give things a go, don't worry if you do not know what you want to do in a career, take time to find the thing that you are passionate about but keep on with your STEM studies.’

‘The variety of careers, and understanding that Engineering is not just a few types, but many and varied. Use of Maths is important in those careers.’

(Source: MAV feedback survey 2017)

MAV believes that making links from school to industry is highly important as students progress through their schooling. It allows them to make the connection from what they are learning at school to the world of work. More importantly it demonstrates that not just special programs like this Girls in STEM day are required, but how student are engaged in mathematics at school everyday is important. Alongside mathematical ability students need to see the uses, applications and contexts within which mathematics is used. Thus making the mathematics targeted and relevant to the students, and preparing them for the workforce better.

In applying such approaches, it is also important to also teach the skills required for the future, including communication, negotiation, team work, problem solving and critical and creative thinking. The work of MAV supports the Victorian Department of Education and Training Education State Targets, including for example ‘Learning for Life: By 2025 25 per cent more Year 10 students will have developed excellent critical and creative thinking skills’. These skills are crucial to workforce success.

There is an economic cost to not having students well prepared for work.

The full submission can be accessed here.

[1] For more information about MAV’s recent Girls in STEM day, see here: http://www.mav.vic.edu.au/student-activities/girls-in-stem.html

Peter Batchelor

Peter is the Webmaster of the Mathematical Association of Victoria. A long, long time ago he was a Primary teacher and then taught computer subjects and Mathematics to Year 10 before becoming a lecturer at RMIT and then working with subject associations to develop their web presence.

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