Spare a thought for today’s primary school children and their future careers. Many of today’s jobs and job functions did not even exist three decades ago. The job roles of the future may not exist yet either. However, we know that technology will be the cornerstone skill that creates and powers the future jobs that do emerge. Therefore, it is vital that from a young age, students explore in practical and fun ways the career possibilities enabled by technology from a young age.
To that end, in 2018 the ACS Foundation ran six BiG Day In Junior events for 2,600 students at public and private primary schools. The BiG Day In Junior is a workshop-based day aiming to help Years 5 & 6 students develop a love of science and technology. John Ridge AM, Executive Director of ACS Foundation said, “As students interact with science and technology in a fun and personal way, it encourages them to select STEM and STEAM subjects in high school and tertiary education and then consider careers in science and technology”.
Each BiG Day In Junior is a full school day event custom designed for between 400-600 students. On a rotational basis, students participate in up to five 50-minute hands-on workshops and activities include programming/coding, robotics, Minecraft, computational thinking, web design, animation, app design, engineering, physics, mathematics and design thinking.
The first programme was held in 2015 for 340 students at Hilltop Road Public School, Merrylands in Western Sydney. Mostly due to word of mouth through the careers advisors network, the programme has organically expanded to six events annually. This year events were held across Australia in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Perth. The BiG Day In Junior is sponsored by CSIRO, and the Australian Computer Society (ACS).
Michael Page, Digital Careers Manager, CSIRO Education and Outreach said, “Many jobs of the future will require STEM skills so it is critical we continue to support student engagement in these subjects now.” The CEO of the ACS, Andrew Johnson said, “We must train Australian students in science and technology to meet the coming jobs demand. Think of it as equivalent to constructing nation-building infrastructure to meet our future needs. It just has to be done”.
Many leading technology companies are onboard in supporting this initiative. Wisetech Global, Westpac, Adobe, Microsoft, Technology One and Apple sponsor the BiG Day In Junior. Industry employers also provide staff to present modules at the BiG Day In Junior. In 2018, presenter representatives came from CSIRO’s Digital Careers, the Australian Computer Society, Wisetech Global, F1 In Schools, Adobe, Technology One, IBM, Apple, Solar Buddy, Microsoft, Code Club, Avanade, Robogals, Animal Logic, Solar Buddy, UTS and Macquarie, RMIT, La Trobe, ECU, UWA and Murdoch Universities.
In 2019, the ACS Foundation will run seven BiG Day In Junior events and add Hobart to the list of event locations. The BiG Day In Junior is part of an integrated national plan to promote science, technology, engineering and maths at all levels of education and help students understand the journey from education to work.
Following on from the primary school BiG Day In Junior, Year 9-12 high school students then participate in the full BiG Day In program. The High School Big Day In is a annual technology excursion hosted at one of nine Australian universities. This pre-work experience day exposes students to technology enabled job roles and the tertiary study pathways that lead to them.
Once students select and commence studying a technology degree at university, the STEM journey continues. Many universities build in mandatory work integrated learning placements as part of their degree program. Most of Australia’s technology employers support work integrated learning programs and internships are pre-cursors to their graduate employment programs.
Engaging students early on in the primary years is essential in building a strong connection with the jobs of the future. As students progress through the Big Day In pipeline program, their career options also expand. The long-term Big Day In program is a long initiative designed to get Australia’s career planning right.
John Ridge AM