The new technologists
A new vision for developing Australia’s next generation of leaders in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) is being made possible through an ambitious scholarship program that aims to strengthen Australia’s pool of local talent and improve the diversity and gender balance in the tech sector.
The Young Technologists Scholarship – created with the support of the Westpac Bicentennial Foundation – offers first-year undergraduate students, enrolled in Bachelor of Computing Science, Bachelor of Information Technology or Bachelor of Information Systems, the opportunity to receive a scholarship valued at $5,000 for each year of their degree.
We had mentors who knew we had very little experience, and they let us see the reality of what they do.
The Foundation was established as part of Westpac’s 200th anniversary celebrations, marking the milestone with a $100 million gift to endow 100 scholarships each and every year in perpetuity, to bestow future generations of students from all walks of life the opportunity to shape Australia’s technological future.
Now in its third year, the Young Technologists Scholarship program has seven recipients, known as Westpac Scholars, studying at UTS. In addition to gaining industry exposure and exploring career opportunities through leadership forums and workshops, the scholars have become a valuable sounding board for identifying gaps to make the study of STEM subjects more appealing and accessible.
The program, designed to identify promising young students with a passion to use technology for change, is already making an indelible impression on scholarship recipients.
“We were able to get in some extra study and work experience over the winter break,” says Westpac Scholar Jessica Domazet.“We had mentors who knew we had very little experience, and they let us see the reality of what they do. That gave us a lot of insight.”
Kritika Khanna, another grateful scholarship recipient, says, “It was good to learn they’re not necessarily looking for people who have experience with technology – that they want people who have an enthusiasm for it.”
The students’ insights are being taken seriously. As Australia transitions from a resources-based economy to one that is innovative and technologically based, it must find ways to skill tomorrow’s workforce. Sue Doherty, who leads STEM advocacy at Westpac, says, “If we want to have the workforce of the future, we need to be part of the conversation to encourage young people to think about the skills and capabilities they’ll need to succeed in future careers – some that don’t even exist yet. And that’s STEM.”
Studies about Australia’s technological future found that the number of students studying physics and mathematics have plummeted alarmingly.
Westpac’s efforts to encourage the study of STEM subjects extends to all levels of education, but it sees tertiary education as crucial for bridging the gap between academia and the workforce – an area in which UTS excels.
“For the first time we’ve been able to provide pathways for those scholars to have practical, paid work experience. Our university partners tell us this is the most pivotal thing, something the education system can’t do on its own,” says Doherty.
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