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Help! I’m a parent and need a crash course in STEM

STEM careers

Want to make sure your child is equipped with the skills and knowledge for the jobs of tomorrow? Here’s your STEM 101

We know parents and carers have a big influence on their kids’ career choices. And we also know that STEM careers are the future: In the last 20 years, employment in STEM occupations has grown by 85% – more than twice as fast as non-STEM occupations (40.2%). And, at the recent Jobs and Skills Summit, industries highlighted the need for increased diversity in STEM and more people with digital skills. 

That means, as a parent, you can help make sure your child is positioned to take advantage of some of the best-paying and most in-demand jobs of the future by equipping yourself with knowledge about STEM and STEM careers.

How can you do that? Keep reading!

What is STEM?

STEM stands for science, technology, engineering and maths, but it’s more than just a buzz word, and it’s more than just a collection of subjects.

From safer, more effective medicines to environmental solutions and smarter cities, the products of STEM skilled and qualified people help both individuals and society as a whole. And remember ‘STEM skills’ aren’t just things like coding and calculus, they include critical thinking, data analysis and problem solving – all of which are transferable to many jobs and industries.

What are STEM careers?

When you think of STEM careers, you might jump to the obvious, like a mechanical engineer, or a maths teacher. But the STEM careers of today and tomorrow are very broad and diverse, and in our digital-driven world, chances are STEM skills will be involved in your child’s career no matter their pathway, or their passion.

For example, your child could use their STEM skills to launch a tech startup to save wildlife, create sustainable or high-tech fashion or crunch numbers as a sports statistician.

Use our STEM + ‘X’ formula to discover how your child could connect their hobbies or passions with a STEM career – you might be surprised how many opportunities are out there!

Parent case study

Cassie is a mum of three and Careers with STEM’s digital editor. “I’ve always had writing roles in creative industries, so never really saw the relevance of STEM to my life and job – until now, where it’s essential,” she says.

Why study STEM?
Writer and mum of three Cassie has had to learn tech smarts to skill-up in her non-STEM career. Image: CwS/TikTok

Cassie didn’t take any STEM subjects in Year 11 and 12, has a media degree and had always worked in print magazines – until most of them started closing, a major industry shift that encouraged her to up-skill in STEM-skilled areas, including digital analytics and digital media.

“Since getting trained up in digital media and future-proofing my pathway, I’m now encouraging my kids to pursue STEM subjects – I can see how important they are to their future careers and getting employed, even if they do end up in a traditionally non-STEM area.”

You can be creative and into STEM

The old stereotype that you’re either creative and ‘arty’, or analytical and STEM-minded, has been well and truly debunked.

According to the University of Sydney, students who are able to move between disciplines like science and the arts have an edge in their career. The result is scientists who are more imaginative in their research methods, for example, and future politicians and writers who are able to make more scientifically informed and evidence-based arguments.

If your child loves art, music and language, rather than questioning how STEM would ever be relevant, you could consider all the opportunities that being skilled up in both sectors would bring.

Whether or not a specific STEM degree or career is on your teen’s horizon, sticking with STEM electives in high school and even choosing STEM subjects at university can ensure they are equipped with the skills of tomorrow, and keep their career options open.

Studying STEM will help your teen land a job

“As a writer that had never studied STEM, I left the print magazine industry to train up in HTML, WordPress, video editing and social media to expand my skill-set and up my employability,” explains Cassie.

“And now? I’m able to create multimedia content on a range of platforms – something that’s expected of any journalist these days, even though it’s not traditionally a STEM career.”

Being fluent in all things digital can set your child up for career success – no matter what field they head into. Take the following real-life role models:

  • Alejandro Davila uses virtual reality to produce movies
  • Michael Trotter’s passion for both gaming and sport led him to create Australia’s first university eSports qualification
  • Lee Constable uses her STEM smarts and communication skills to bust science myths on TV and social media

Although Cassie’s kids aren’t teenagers just yet, she can already see their curiosity in numbers, data, science and tech, and she is already thinking about the opportunities STEM skills could bring to their future.

“My oldest is extremely creative and a keen drawer,” Cassie says. “Which is why I think getting skilled-up in tech would be so beneficial – to navigate all the cutting-edge creative software that’s out these days and ultimately land him a next-gen job!”

Remember, university isn’t the only study pathway into a STEM-skilled career.

Vocational education and training (VET) pathways (think TAFE courses), can equip your child with job-ready and in-demand skills. VET electives are also available in years 11 and 12, meaning students can kick off their qualifications before they’ve even finished high school. VET study can also be a stepping stone to further study, meaning uni doesn’t have to be off the cards completely, even if it isn’t the first step in your teen’s study path.

More STEM resources for parents

Subscribe to The Buzz about STEM podcast

The Buzz About STEM is a free podcast for parents who want first-hand advice on inspiring their teen and supporting them on their path to a rewarding, successful career.

Sign up for webinars and events

Stay informed about future high-growth careers areas from Cybersecurity and Data Science to Digital Retail, Automation and AI.

Sign up for updates

Never miss a beat of what’s new in STEM careers. Sign up for our special parents e-newsletter!

Visit our Parents Portal – a hub for parents or carers wanting to nurture their teen into a rewarding and successful career.

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