​SAS data scientists to mentor STEM students

Chief analytics officer Evan Stubbs wants to show students that maths and science are not “abstract dry subjects”

Two SAS data scientists will offer up their services to mentor science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) students in 2016 as part of an initiative by LifeJourney Australia.

SAS chief analytics officer and executive director Evan Stubbs said he wants to show students that science and math are not just "abstract, dry subjects”.

Stubbs said he plans to show secondary school and university students the ways that STEM skills are applied in real situations and how acquiring one or more STEM skills can lead to a rewarding career.

“We must ramp up a more diversified economy by developing knowledge-based products for the future. We can no longer rely on industries we have traditionally been strong in if we don’t want to be left behind,” he said.

“I see our mentoring process as contributing to a self-perpetuating environment in which Australia becomes STEM-rich, and which encourages our young people to apply these skills and build a culture of innovation in Australia.”

Students will start to select STEM mentors during term one of next year.

A SAS spokesperson said the number of students is not possible for it to ascertain but it expects a “significant uptake.”

“There are school districts on board from New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia, Western Australia, Queensland and Tasmania, together with nine universities at launch.”

A 2015 report from the Australian Computer Society found that demand for ICT workers will increase by 100,000 people over the next six years. However, the number of IT graduates with a bachelor or post graduate qualification almost halved between 2002 and 2013.

The report also found that, despite the influence of digital technologies on the next generation’s future career opportunities, Australian schools are well behind in the use of digital technologies within an education setting. Currently only 3 per cent of Year 6 students frequently use ICT in schools for technical tasks.

In June, a CEDA report called Australia’s future workforce suggested that five million jobs may be replaced by automation within the next 10 to 20 years.

“While we have seen automation replace some jobs in areas such as agriculture, mining and manufacturing, other areas where we are likely to see change are, for example, the health sector, which to date has remained largely untouched by technological change,” read the report.

“Creating a culture of innovation must be driven by the private sector, educational institutions and government. However, government must lead the way with clear and detailed education, innovation and technology policies that are funded adequately.”