STEM careers take off at Indigenous winter school

STEM careers take off at Indigenous winter school

A school holidays camp at QUT packed with real world experiences has inspired 26 teenagers – from Brisbane to Katherine to Cairns – to consider science and engineering careers.

The Indigenous Australian Science and Infrastructure Development (SID) School program is an award-winning success story that is held each winter at Gardens Point.

It aims to demystify university through a free five-day residential camp for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students in Year 10, 11 and 12.

This year, the teens went on a VIP tour of the Brisbane Airport, explored the Gallipoli Army Barracks, checked out trains, helicopters and planes, and got a taste of the corporate world in the city.

They even got to see Australian Border Force sniffer dogs in action at the airport and meet some koalas at Lone Pine Sanctuary.

SID School

QUT and engineering firm WSP Australia established the school in 2012 to help address the under representation of Indigenous Australians in STEM industries.

Last year, the event was recognised with a national award – Consult Australia’s Gold Award for Excellence in Corporate Social Responsibility.

The SID School is run by QUT’s Oodgeroo Unit (the uni’s Indigenous support unit) and WSP and based in Brisbane at QUT’s $230 million Science and Engineering Centre.

The 2019 SID School director, Professor Anita Lee Hong, said it focused on employment pathways related to science and infrastructure development and featured site visits showcasing real jobs as well as lots of hands-on learning activities at QUT.

“We give the students as much real-world experience as possible and get them out to workplaces where they can see STEM careers in action and talk to people working in science, technology, engineering and maths,” she said.

SID School

QUT and WSP’s efforts in running the SID School are backed up by partners including the Department of Transport and Main Roads, Brisbane Airport Corporation, Lendlease, the Australian Army, QMEA Resources Skills Academic and the CareerTrackers Indigenous Internship Program.

WSP’s Regional Director for Queensland Gerard Ryan, who is a QUT engineering alumnus, said the partnership of business with universities was important in laying strong foundations and career pathways for aspiring students with an interest in the STEM areas.

Brisbane Airport Corporation’s Partnership and Events Manager, Jacinta Messer (a QUT business graduate), said the airport visit aimed to get the students excited about the aviation industry.

“We aim to capture the hearts and minds of this year’s students to encourage them to consider a future career in this industry,” she said.

Students attending this year’s camp came from schools in Brisbane, the Gold Coast, Toowoomba, Katherine, Rockhampton, Townsville, Cairns, Torres Strait Islands, Maryborough, Yarrabah, Blackwater and Port Macquarie.

Key Facts:

  • The SID School aims to demystify university and address the under representation of Indigenous Australians in STEM industries, including engineering.
  • The program is open to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students in Year 10, 11 and 12.
  • QUT (Oodgeroo Unit) and WSP Australia established the school in 2012.
  • Learning about real jobs and going on site visits are a key part of the school.
  • Site visits in 2019 included Brisbane Airport, the Australian Army’s Gallipoli Barracks, the Roma Street Station and Indigenous train, and corporate offices for WSP and Lendlease.