THE ‘‘wealth, health and prosperity of the nation’’ depends on students just like those in West Wallsend High’s maths and science program.
That’s the opinion of Dr Terry Burns, the director of University of Newcastle’s Science and Engineering Challenge.
The ME Program, a Regional Development Hunter initiative, brings schools, training providers and industries together to boost enrolment in science, technology, engineering and maths – the ‘‘STEM’’ subjects.
Dr Burns said the program was helping overcome the ‘‘hard sell’’ of convincing students to enrol in courses that lead to jobs that do not yet exist.
Dr Burns said ‘‘compelling’’ evidence showed the ME and similar programs were increasing university enrolments in science and engineering subjects on their way to becoming science and technology professionals.
‘‘They are the ones who are shaping the future,’’ he said.
West Wallsend High students showed off their robotic manufacturing skills on Wednesday as the Minister for Regional Development John Barilaro visited the school.
‘‘Over the past five years 7500 students have taken part in the program and this has helped increase participation by Hunter students – especially girls – in HSC science and maths to above the state average,’’ Mr Barilaro said.
The visit followed a Federal government backflip decision to extend the program’s funding for another year.
RDA Hunter had been told the program, which runs in 52 Hunter schools, would no longer be funded by Department of Defence.
Following a Newcastle Herald investigation in June funding was restored.
Mr Barilaro said the ME Program was important in reversing high youth unemployment in the region.
‘‘The Hunter needs a highly-skilled workforce not only to maintain a productive and progressive economy, but to generate the ideas, develop the technology for the innovative businesses of tomorrow,’’ Mr Barilaro said.
“Students attending an ME Program school are twice as likely to undertake engineering studies and are significantly more likely to complete higher education.”
Mr Barilaro also launched the Study Hunter initiative.
The RDA Hunter, University of Newcastle and Hunter Tafe initiative aims to bring more international students to study in the Hunter