Cessnock schools share STEM skillset with peers at Future Focused Learning STEM Workforce Conference

Group effort: Sandra James of Boeing speaks at what is understood to be the largest STEM conference in regional NSW. Picture: Simone De Peak
Group effort: Sandra James of Boeing speaks at what is understood to be the largest STEM conference in regional NSW. Picture: Simone De Peak

CESSNOCK schools are leading a national conversation about the future of science, technology, engineering and mathematics in the classroom, having invited speakers from companies including Google and Adobe to a conference that has been a year in the making.

More than 600 educators and industry leaders have arrived in the Hunter for the Future Focused Learning STEM Workforce Conference, which was held in Rydges Newcastle on Thursday and will move to Crowne Plaza Hunter Valley on Friday.

Regional Development Australia Hunter and the Cessnock Community of Great Public Schools –  which includes Cessnock High, Mount View High and 13 primary schools – have spent a year organising the event, which allows teachers to learn about STEM’s role in business and what jobs will be created in the future, as well as how to develop school programs in partnership with industry.

Deputy principal of STEM at Cessnock High School Learning Community – which includes Cessnock High and five primary schools – Dr Scott Sleap said the Hunter was “punching well above its weight to underpin the success of students into the future” and the rest of the country was taking notice.

“They want to learn how to do it and they want to learn from us how to do it,” Dr Sleap said.

“Students require STEM based skillsets and to know how to work collaboratively, problem solve, think creatively, have cognitive flexibility and be able to negotiate.

“Lots of schools take a siloed approach but our success has been down to working co-operatively across primary and high schools and bringing industry in, to create a pipeline of future employees with these skills. Our teachers have also been trained for this future focused learning.”

Dr Sleap said Cessnock schools collectively prioritised STEM a year ago to combat the city’s high youth unemployment rate.

“It’s been quite a big undertaking to put the resources in and take a leap of faith, but we’re lucky we have principals who are willing to be innovative.”

The cohort has received grants to share its knowledge and replicate its programs.