Rio Tinto has backed the Western Australian Government’s launch of the first ever five-pillar approach to enhancing science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) capabilities throughout the state.
The $3.3 million strategy was an election commitment for the McGowan Government in addressing the ‘current lack of diversity’ in STEM education and careers. The STEM strategy was launched at Rio Tinto’s Perth operations centre.
Women represent just 16 per cent of STEM qualified people in Australia, and Aboriginal people less than one per cent of higher education engineering and science students.
Over 1000 teachers in lower socioeconomic public schools are already participating in a four-year professional learning program as part of the STEM strategy.
“One of the priorities for this government is ensuring all Western Australians have the opportunity to develop STEM skills and participate in the jobs of the future that will drive our economy,” Western Australian Science Minister Dave Kelly said.
“Seventy-five per cent of the fastest growing jobs require STEM skills and STEM jobs are growing at one and a half times the rate of non-STEM jobs.”
Rio Tinto actively participated in the development of the strategy, recognising that an increased emphasis on STEM education is “critical for our future.”
“Today, almost all our people work alongside technology in some way and given the rapid pace of innovation and digitisation, this will only increase in future years,” Rio Tinto managing director of planning, integration and assets Matthew Holcz said.
“WA’s mining industry is leading the way in innovation and we have the opportunity to create the Silicon Valley of mining right here in Western Australia.”
Rio Tinto offers reskilling and upskilling programs with a STEM focus, including a commitment of up to $2 million to help develop the first nationally recognised vocational education and training (VET) qualifications in automation in 2017.
“By training our educators and increasing opportunities for these students, all Western Australians can take part in a STEM future,” WA Education and Training Minister Sue Ellery concluded.