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Wednesday, 21 October 2015
Page: 12134

Mrs McNAMARA (Dobell) (10:10): Members of this House would be familiar with the many events that took place around Australia as part of National Science Week. The CSIRO, as part of a national effort to promote National Science Week, arranged for local science, technology, engineering and mathematics professionals to visit local schools and engage with students. The engagement of students focused on these disciplines known as STEM, as recent research has indicated that student involvement in these areas is declining; and, while the number of students undertaking studies in these subjects, job prospects in these areas are actually increasing. Seventy-five per cent of the fastest growing occupations now require skills and knowledge from the STEM fields. The events coordinated by the CSIRO during National Science Week were intended to highlight to students how important these skills are in regard to employment prospects.

In my electorate of Dobell, with a high youth unemployment rate, I am pleased to see more activities being undertaken to encourage students to embrace the positive aspects of STEM fields. The students of Wadalba Community School hosted a visit from Dr Sophie Parks, a PhD graduate from the Ourimbah campus of the University of Newcastle, employed by the New South Wales Department of Primary Industries. I would like to thank Dr Parks for taking the time to demonstrate to students how STEM skills can lead to local employment.

On the day, I met with students involved in the school's agricultural program. As I learnt from the students, I was impressed by their efforts in managing the treatment of sick trout in their school fishponds. After showing me the fish facilities, the students demonstrated to me their greenhouse programs. Dr Parks, being a plant physiologist, was able to explain to the students how the work they are doing has real-life application.

I did not think I could be any more impressed with how the school was preparing students for post-school life until I was advised of their job-readiness program and mock interviews. At Wadalba Community School, interviews are arranged to assist year 10 students equip themselves for their subject selection, ensuring that the students' subject choices for years 11 and 12 are realistic and conducive to their career aspirations. In observing this program, I was able to appreciate how the students were placed in a situation similar to a job interview so that they could understand the practicalities and consequences of an interview.

On the day, I also met with Rhonda Boardman, who is coordinating these activities. Rhonda is hugely supportive of the interviews and was pleased with how well the students were adapting to them, and she also advised that the whole ethos of the school is focused on practical job-readiness skills. This school is ensuring that its students are well equipped to gain employment. I commend Rhonda and the Wadalba Community School for their efforts in preparing their students for the workforce, and I pass on my thanks to the staff and students for welcoming me to their school.