Shadow minister for the digital economy Ed Husic has joined with Google Australia and the education charity Schools Plus to support the expansion of a STEM education initiative in his western Sydney electorate.
Mr Husic significant contributed portion from his electorate allowance to combine with Google Australia’s $45,000 to help create a new middle school STEM-focused learning hub – known as a Makerspace – for a cluster of western Sydney schools called the Colebee Learning Community that will be accessed by about 4000 students.
The Learning Community is made up of seven schools: Crawford Public School, Doonside Public School, Doonside Technology High School, Evans High School, Marayong South Public School, Plumpton High School and Walters Road Public School.
Mr Husic said the additional funding would enable Plumpton High School to be onboarded as part of the program and the Learning Community.
“Because I have contacts with different schools, I know they’ve got young people who are very keen. The good thing is there are different initiatives happening in schools and classrooms and organisations are helping to corral that as well,” he told InnovationAus.com.
In addition to the Makerspace, to be based at Doonside Technology High, the funding will be used to purchase equipment and furniture, as well as robotics and coding technology such as Lego Mindstorm EV3 kits and Thinkershield Arduino kits.
It will also support the cost to upskill teachers from all the schools involved on how to use the technology.
Google Australia managing director Melanie Silva, who grew up in western Sydney, said it’s about teaching school children in the area about possible opportunities.
“This particular concept is a great way for any resource-constrained schools to think about how they can get involved in this program. The seven schools involved will be sharing facilities and resources,” she said.
“Instead of one school thinking how to give these kids the experience beyond their means, bringing the community together is really a great way to do it. The Colby Learning Centre concept is a really great start.”
This is the third STEM-focused education initiative backed by Google Australia through its partnership with Schools Plus. Schools in Western Australia and South Australia are already participating.
Mr Husic believes by bringing Google to western Sydney will get students thinking about how technology can have a role in what they do in the future.
“I’ve always encouraged tech firms to visit this part of western Sydney. A lot of them are great at talking about what they do and how they can get young people involved,” he said.
“For me, the biggest thing is that [the hub] is a platform for young students in western Sydney to get involved.”
However, Mr Husic’s agenda to help western Sydney does not stop with this initiative. Skills and jobs of the future are also front of mind.
“I don’t think digital economy policies leading to the election can avoid the biggest thing that’s affecting the digital economy, which is skills. This is why I’ve thrown my support behind initiatives like these,” he said.
“I’m actually looking at these things to see if we scale them nationally and see what they can deliver. There needs to be a bigger game plan and skills development that needs to be rolled out.
“That’s the challenge in the long-term. We can have 50 million great digital economy ideas, but if we don’t have the people to make it a reality, they’re going nowhere.
“It’s also about fine tuning the body of skills people have and ensure they’re relevant to the future of work. Again, it’s why I support these initiatives to see what we can do nationwide to encourage this can happen more.”