Industry partnerships is a broad term for collaborative projects between educational institutions and commercial businesses. Within the context of STEM Education these collaborations are an excellent way to drive higher student engagement, access specialised knowledge and provide career education. With any collaborative project, its success is dependent on a number of factors, chief amongst them is project management. A skill that Educators should be familiar with whether they include it within their definition of their skill set.
A way to frame industry partnerships is by looking at the level of engagement required by students. Léonie Rennie and her colleagues looked at this through the lens of community links. They identified two levels of engagement with community. The first was the community and/or local organisations coming into the classroom to share information which students could use in their classroom activities. The second was where students engage with the community outside of the classroom and they begin actively participating in the community.
From my experience as an industry partner in different collaborative projects it’s always good to start small and build complexity as you go. A low entry cost example would be a mentorship program with an industry partner or partners which we could look at through the first level of engagement Léonie Rennie and her colleagues referred to.
Essentially a mentorship program partners students with an industry professional. A common topic to explore is career education & pathways. The reason being an industry professional can give students real life experience of career development and career pathways. It also allows students to gain an understanding of workplace expectations, valued skills and experiences. From an industry perspective, this is low cost and straight forward project to work on and represents good value to educators and students.
A great example of this is the Wyndham Tech Schools student leadership program. Self-nominated student leaders are matched with industry professional for a series of sessions focused on goal setting and careers. The industry professionals bring information into the classroom for students to use within their classroom activities.
Program Delivery and Co-Design
Another worthwhile opportunity for industry involvement in STEM Education is through program delivery and co-design of units of work. Co-Designing classroom activities or projects with an industry partner allows a real world problem/context to be examined by students. This can help motivate and engage students due the authenticity of the context, it is a real life example of putting their STEM Skills in action.
For example, the Tech School Model in Victoria brings together industry partners and schools. Enabling students to readily access real world problems relevant to their community in a structure environment.
No matter how big or small your industry partnership project is, people are the most important element for success. Maintaining good communication, clear roles and responsibilities and central goal will give a great chance a success.
ASPIRES. (2013). Young People’s science and career aspirations age 10-14. London: Kings College.
Marginson, S., Tytler, R., Freeman, B., & Roberts, K. (2013). STEM: Country comparisons. Melbourne: Australian Council of Learned Academies.
Rennie, L., Venville, G., & Wallace, J. (2018). Making STEM curriculum useful, relevant, and motivating for students. In R. Jorgensen, & K. Larkin, STEM education in the junior secondary: the state of play (pp. 91–109). Holbrook: Springer Verlag.