Australia’s Chief Scientist visits Port Stephens P-TECH Partnership

An innovative program to boost high school students’ chances of working in emerging tech careers has attracted the attention of Australia’s Chief Scientist, Dr Alan Finkel, who toured the Port Stephens Pathways in Technology (P-TECH) site today to get a closer look.

Dr Finkel visited BAE Systems Australia, an international aerospace and defence technology business and an industry partner in the P-TECH program based at Hunter River High. Originating in Brooklyn, New York, in 2011, P-TECH has since spread across the US and is now in Australia, with the first pilot sites starting in Victoria in 2016.

The Commonwealth Department of Education and Training has provided $5.1 million to implement the P-TECH pilot, and over the next four years P-TECH will be operating in 14 sites across Australia.

BAE Systems showed Dr Finkel through its facility, where the RAAF’s Lead In Fighter is maintained and where P-TECH students are able to experience first-hand the opportunities a qualification in Aviation, Engineering and Advanced Manufacturing can provide.

Aerospace Senior Maintenance Manager John Frasier said: “Working for an industry at the forefront of high tech engineering provides us with a responsibility to nurture and inspire the next generation of employees.

The students here today will benefit from programs such as this that will allow them to pursue the most challenging careers in aerospace and gain world leading skills locally.”

Dr Finkel was joined by representatives from other P-TECH industry partners including Varley, Ampcontrol and Jetstar.

The Australian P-TECH model was developed by non-profit organisation, the Skilling Australia Foundation, who continue to play a key role administering the program and assisting local stakeholders to work together to deliver a successful program at all sites.

The foundation’s co-founder and CEO, Nicholas Wyman, said: “Partnerships between education and industry are crucial to the success of this innovative program. It allows students to engage with the world of work and gives them a clear link between their learning and post-school pathways.

“What’s really exciting is that P-TECH will allow these schools to specialise and become centres of excellence in their chosen STEM pathway. More than 75% of Australia’s new and emerging industries demand solid STEM skills.”

Varley’s HR Manager, Jan Dobbie said: “It is clear that the students and the school community are inspired and engaged. It is also clear there is significant external interest in the program.”

Year 10 students at Hunter River High, Tiane and Gabby, are enthusiastic about their recent visit to the F-35 facility: “Our guides [at BAE Systems] showed us the insides of the Lead-in Fighter Hawks as well as letting us see the production line of these beasts. We felt so excited. We could have run a marathon. To us, this will be forever in our memory and the start of a passion for our own P-TECH journey at school.”

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