Construction is well underway on a pair of high-tech learning centres designed to empower a next-generation workforce. The Banyule-Nillumbik Tech School at Melbourne Polytechnic’s Greensborough campus and the Whittlesea Tech School at Epping campus are set to open their doors in mid-2018 with an emphasis on engaging secondary student learning in the core STEM subjects.
Project Manager, Skylie Massingham, says the schools will prepare students from Year 7 to Year 12 to be a part of a future adaptive, responsive and agile workforce. “The schools are about developing 21st century ‘soft’ skills — so that’s problem-solving, critical thinking, communication.” “Students are not just coming and doing maths, they will work on inquiry-based programs. They'll be presented with a problem based around a topic, food waste, for example, and they’ll go through a design thinking process, much like industry does, to come up with a solution. Then, they’ll iterate and test that thinking.” The programs at the Tech Schools will focus on issues affecting the community, particularly those affecting their local north Melbourne suburbs to make the most of industry partnerships. “If it's about food waste, we know that we can talk to industry partners, such as supermarkets or the local market… We know we can bring in our industry partners to address a specific problem, ‘how do we recycle better?’ And, then students can come up with a solution.”
Invaluable Input from Industry
Industry partners are an invaluable asset to the programs, says Skylie, but students will get more out of them than skills transferable to the workplace. “Students will make significant networks by working directly with industry and community mentors, they will gain some skills in being able to network and gain insight into the variety of jobs that exist in industry, not just the jobs that people know of, for instance, in health, its not just the nurses and doctors.” Part of the programs’ strength will be the broad spectrum of contributors and participants from government, private, and Catholic schools. There are 18 local partner schools contributing to the programs at Banyule-Nillumbik and 14 schools at Whittlesea. “We’ll be developing the programs with the schools, so they’ll be based on what schools are looking for in line with the needs of the community,” says Skylie. “We have two teacher ambassadors from each of the schools to co-construct the programs… The Tech School is really a convener, allowing students, communities and industry to work together in the same space. It’s really a community asset, where we are one of many partners.”
Collaboration is Key
The Tech Schools provide something that secondary schools can’t necessarily provide in isolation. Students will have an opportunity to collaborate with a range of students from other schools in the region. Even the overall theme for the Banyule-Nillumbik school, ‘Community Creates Change’, was decided by a committee of students, industry and educators. This collaborative approach is aimed at providing better outcomes for the students’ employment prospects in what is an evolving job marketplace, particularly within their own regions. A lot of other things will be happening at the Tech schools when they launch midway through 2018. For instance, a student entrepreneur program will begin with the support of the Melbourne Innovation Centre, based at the Greensborough campus. Budding entrepreneurs will be given support from the Banyule-Nillumbik Tech School and Melbourne Innovation Centre to actually grow their business, says Skylie: “They’ll be provided a small grant and supported with the skills they need so when they actually leave they have a successful business.” You can read more about the tech schools here.
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