The rollout of the nbn™ broadband access network is helping to prepare the next generation of Australian leaders for the future workforce, according to research released by NBN Co.
Bright Futures: Laying the foundations for the workplace of tomorrow, conducted by economics and analytics firm Alpha Beta and commissioned by NBN Co, is part of the Connecting Australia series exploring the economic and social impact of access to fast broadband. The report forecasts the future of education and jobs in Australia.
Key findings include:
Increasing need for digital literacy: High growth jobs – those that are becoming more prevalent, such as management and professional jobs – demand digital literacy skills almost 7 times more frequently than occupations that are becoming less prevalent.
Upskilling for the future: It is predicted that by 2030, three in four Australians will spend more time using STEM and entrepreneurial skills at work. Time spent on problem solving is expected to double to 12 hours per week, while use of STEM skills will almost double from five to nine hours per week.
Enabling entrepreneurship: The nbn™ access network is helping to power a rise in entrepreneurship, and helping to contribute an estimated additional 49,000 – 93,000 entrepreneurs by 2021, with 40% of these reported to be women.
Adapting students: Primary school students in nbn™- connected areas spend 75 minutes more per week completing homework online than in those non nbn™- connected areas.
NBN Co’s STEMpreneur initiative, undertaken in partnership with the Australian Business Council Network (ABCN), draws on this future of work focus to deliver a virtual education program to eight participating schools across Australia.
The program combines face-to-workshops and virtual mentoring to coach students as they develop a business idea to help overcome a challenge in their community using their STEM and entrepreneurial skills.
This year, there was a strong focus on the environment among participating schools. Their business ideas include a robotic ocean cleaner to keep the Barrier Reef free from rubbish, an air quality app to help local communities impacted by coal operations, and a website which informs tourists about the importance of water consumption and provides information about the dangers posed by Australia’s unique wildlife.
The initiative culminated in students pitching their business ideas to a panel of STEM experts in June. Bowen Road Primary School in Hobart took top honours with their idea of autonomous drones that use thermal imaging cameras and sensors to detect the location and trajectory of bush fires to assist emergency services.
Kathrine Dyer, Chief Network Deployment Officer at NBN Co said, “The world of work is set to transform in the next ten years so it is vital Australian students have access to infrastructure such as fast broadband to help them develop STEM and entrepreneurial skills no matter where they live.
“Since 2014 the nbn™ access network has connected around 220,000 regional households with children that had below average or no internet3, and has increased the average speeds4 in these households by 2.7 times, increasing to 3.3 times for remote households with children.
“We’re proud to be equipping the business leaders and entrepreneurs of tomorrow with the infrastructure that helps them develop in-demand skills and stay ahead in a competitive market. We are also pleased to be partnering with ABCN to bring STEM skills to life for our participating schools. ”
Allegra Spender, Chief Executive Officer at ABCN explained, “We know the workforce is changing rapidly and it’s vital for us to be partnering with businesses like NBN Co to help bring practical real-world learning experiences to Australian students.
“Connectivity allows us to do that, wherever the school is located. Creating STEM learning opportunities is particularly important in higher needs school communities where we know it can be more challenging for students to pursue these pathways. It’s been especially rewarding to see these students engaging passionately with STEM and entrepreneurship to solve real problems facing their communities.”
Robotics expert and STEMpreneur ambassador Marita Cheng, informed, “As a young Australian leading a tech company, I’m keenly aware of the importance of STEM and entrepreneurial skills for students. With universal fast broadband becoming a reality, these core skillsets will only become more important in the workforce.
“I’ve loved hearing that so many students share my passion for technology and innovation through the virtual mentoring sessions and final pitch submissions. I’m sure there are some budding CEOs, engineers and tech entrepreneurs among the very bright students I’ve worked with.”
The participating schools in the STEMpreneur initiative were:
Para Hills Primary School, Adelaide, SA
Islington Public School, Newcastle, NSW
Bowen Road Primary, Hobart, TAS
Larapinta Primary School, Alice Springs, NT
Parramatta State School, Cairns, QLD
Victoria Park State School, Mackay, QLD
Canadian Lead Primary School, Ballarat, VIC
Parkwood Primary School, Perth, WA