OPENING UP MATHS CAREERS

 In News

AMSI DIRECTOR, PROFESSOR GEOFF PRINCE TAKES US ON A GUIDED TOUR OF AMSI’S CAREERS RESOURCES INCLUDING, THE RECENTLY LAUNCHED CHOOSEMATHS CAREERS AWARENESS CAMPAIGN AND MATHSADDS CAREERS GUIDE. HE REVEALS THE THREE C’S FOR INDUSTRY READINESS, WHY RESEARCH‐INDUSTRY COLLABORATION IS THE MISSING LINK AND UPDATES US ON AMSI’S NATIONAL ALL‐SECTOR, ALL‐DISCIPLINE POSTGRADUATE INTERNSHIP PROGRAM AMSIINTERN.

NOT SO HIDDEN FUTURES

Centred on the achievements of three female mathematicians at NASA, Theodore Melfi’s movie, Hidden Figures challenges gender bias and highlights mathematics as an innovation driver. We need narratives like this as we seek to engage women and girls and rebrand maths as an exciting pathway to emerging career opportunities. The movie has been well received globally, including by those who attended the recent AMSI ChooseMaths screenings.

Mathematics and statistics research underpins innovation capacity across nearly every discipline. If we are to succeed as
a STEM driven economy, Australia needs to change how maths is valued across the community. This remains a core focus
across AMSI’s policy agenda, Securing Australia’s Mathematical Workforce. In addition to addressing university maths prerequisites, out-of-field teaching and industry engagement, measures to tackle careers awareness are critical to protect mathematical skill supply. The need for such action is supported by recommendations delivered by the AMSI Industry/Mathematical Sciences Engagement Taskforce to address industry engagement and future workforce challenges.

The mathematical sciences’ impact on innovation is no secret to industry and government who have been quick to recognise the economic benefits of a strong mathematical workforce. Further down the pipeline, however, the message that maths opens powerful career pathways is not getting through to teachers, students and parents. If we want to equip children to succeed we need to give them skills that provide the resilience and agility to navigate an increasingly dynamic world. In her call to arms on page 2, Sally Saviane, parent and primary teacher, sets out a powerful case to parents supporting the value of mathematics as a flexible and essential pathway to future prosperity.

CAREERS AWARENESS

The recently launched ChooseMaths Careers Awareness campaign represents a significant milestone in tackling this challenge. Almost 10,000 schools across the country have received launch careers awareness packs, including a poster series featuring inspiring women in maths. More than a number, these mentors are accessibly representative of the wide-ranging industry impact of mathematics. The campaign will expand on our existing ChooseMaths outreach events, as well as drawing on topical resources including our successful video series already viewed by over 40,000 people. As the current mathematical workforce ages, resupply is dependent on strong participation of women in mathematics.

 

MATHS ADDS: CAREERS GUIDE

The mathematical sciences has a long-standing entrenched gender divide, in 2015 only 6.9 per cent of Year 12 girls undertook advanced maths compared to 12.6 per cent of boys with women accounting for only one third of Australian undergraduate maths students. The Women in Maths Network will bolster engagement of women and girls, essential to securing future skill supply across the pipeline, through establishment of a network of female mentors. This community of passionate and inspiring STEM professionals will support, motivate and advise young women pursuing mathematical careers.

Now in its twentieth year, MathsAdds is the acknowledged ‘go to’ guide for information on maths and statistics careers. Featuring over 140 examples of maths dependent job ads, real-life profiles instead of case studies and other resources, the launch of the MathsAdds website has expanded this resource to create an interactive online tool responsive to the changing demand for these skills. Aimed at both secondary and higher education students, MathsAdds remains a core resource for careers awareness across all AMSI programs. Industry support for MathsAdds is growing, with a number of sector leaders on board in 2017. This is recognised as a quality platform to both communicate skills needs and help create a future proof workforce.

RESEARCH-INDUSTRY: THE MISSING LINK

Despite it being recognised as a key innovation driver, Australian industry’s engagement with the mathematical sciences remains below the OECD average. This needs urgent action if we are to transition to a STEM driven economy. Critically, universities need to better highlight industry pathways to university mathematics students contemplating their next steps. Embedded in AMSI flagship events such as the annual Summer School, careers afternoons have opened direct research-industry engagement highlighting cross-benefits of these linkages. With organisations such as the Commonwealth Bank, Google, PwC and RBA engaging with students, these vital networking opportunities often reveal emerging career pathways.

 

THE THREE C’S FOR INDUSTRY READINESS

As we seek to foster research-industry engagement, it is essential to provide a supply of work ready mathematics graduates. A workforce equipped not only with the required specialist knowledge but also the soft skills needed to navigate and thrive in commercial environments. As part of its engagement with industry, AMSI’s Industry Advisory Committee asked senior company executives to identify the skills in most demand. As expected the ability to communicate and collaborate were at the top of this list, as was the almost universal demand for maths graduates with the ability to code. This gives weight to the benefits of inclusion of coding in the school syllabus, and keeping these skills front of mind for maths and stats postgraduates as they compete for the new generation of roles in the innovation system.

AMSI’s Vacation Research Scholarship program plays an important role in transition from classroom to career, teaming undergraduate students such as Asem Wardek featured in this Update issue, with established researchers for short-focused projects with real outcomes. You can read about Asem Wardek’s experience and the benefit of the program on page 17.

Integrated learning opportunities (WIL) expose university students to industry and opening essential industry-research pathways. Industry focused postgraduate internships are a proven model to equip the emerging research workforce to engage with industry and open new avenues for future collaboration.

Launching in June 2017, AMSI Optimise seeks to strengthen mathematical-industry ties and build essential commercial optimisation capacity. Featuring a mix of presentations and practical challenges, AMSI Optimise will create strategic pathways for researchers to collaborate with the public and private sector in areas such as transport and supply chain logistics, energy pricing and communication networks.

NATIONAL INTERNSHIP PROGRAM

Australia’s only national, university-owned PhD internship program, AMSI Intern has already made a considerable impact on the innovation landscape, placing over 200 interns across all disciplines and industry sectors into four to six-month industry research projects. This has served to not only increase industry led university- research collaboration but has led to growth in the employment of specialist research staff across both SMEs and big business. We are now preparing to bring the program to national scale, with the government announcing a $28.2 million funding package to place 1400 interns over four years.

One of the strengths of AMSI’s internship model is the participation of academic mentors to support postgraduate researchers. This has proven effective in building research-industry partnerships well beyond the internship. For industry, the opportunity to see first-hand the benefits of accessing specialised research skills establishes new need for collaboration and, in some cases, leads to employment of interns to enhance internal research capabilities.

MAKING MATHS THE FUTURE

The rapid pace of technological development continues to open new opportunities and exciting career pathways not yet found in MathsAdds or any other career resource. Careers awareness is about more than jobs, it is about futures. And in our shared and individual futures mathematics continues to be both a fundamental foundation and at the very frontier of what we know. By choosing maths and encouraging our children to choose maths we equip ourselves to evolve with the world and be part of the extraordinary. Much like Astronaut John Glenn in Hidden Figures, industry innovators know you ‘can’t get anywhere without the numbers.’

 

This story was originally published in the Update issue 5 – winter 2017 Careers Special. Go online to read the full issue.

 

Full link – http://amsi.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2017/06/the_update_5th-ed_web.pdf

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