career

These six dream jobs have one thing in common that most of us wouldn't realise.

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Ever wondered how you could become a sustainable fashion designer, create and print 3D chocolate, design and make electric skateboards, work in music production, be a science consultant fact checker for movies or travel around the world to museums curating natural history exhibitions?

Well, it may surprise you but these six dream jobs have one thing in common I didn’t realise – they are all the end result of STEM career and education.

Don’t switch off now, this is interesting. STEM is the acronym for Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths. Sound boring to you? Well, think again.

Michaela Ripper is a 23 year old with a Bachelor of Science in Honours and Physics and she is part of the Smart Skills Team at Questacon, who travel around the country to schools to connect teachers and high school students with just how exciting, creative and challenging the STEM stream can be.

In fact STEM isn’t just exciting, it underpins most of what’s on offer in our contemporary workforce. Even jobs that haven’t been created yet!

“You would struggle to name a field that wouldn’t be enhanced by studying subjects in the STEM stream,” Michaela tells Mamamia.

Michaela Ripper in Questacon's Smart Skills team. Image: Supplied.

So in order to break down the misconceptions about who should study STEM and where it will lead, the team from Questacon deliver programs at their Centre, which also connect virtually to schools around the country, and deliver their workshops in person in regional areas across Australia.

“We bring fancy tech equipment from Samsung to the schools we go to,” says Michaela. “And then we get the students to build something. We get them to use their own creative ideas to do something like use engineering skills to create a rollercoaster track or create a landing platform for a drone.”

Michaela believes the key to these workshops is to show that science “is very creative and imaginative.”

“We have to break down the stereotype and stigma that STEM is cold, sterile and masculine,” she says. Fist-pump to that, sister.

The prevalent idea that the Smart Skills sets out to tackle is the belief held by most people in the community that there are “maths/science people and arts people, or people who can't do maths and science”.

This stereotype is one of the huge stumbling blocks to why we are still such a long way from seeing gender parity in those studying STEM, and those engaging in STEM-based careers.

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My 22-year-old daughter is currently in her last year studying design engineering and is an intern for BMW in Munich. She has spent the last twelve months integrating virtual reality technology with artificial intelligence so that machines can see the world like we can. This is a girl who wasn't that great at maths. She is one of only very few young women in the program. She is also one of the most innovative out-of-the box thinkers.

The STEM job is changing: Samsung and Questacon's 'This is a STEM Job' campaign. Image: Supplied.

“Self-doubt is very prevalent and from a young age and culturally we tend to discourage young women from technology, maths and engineering,” says Michaela. “This perspective that there is an ‘innate’ ability for maths is communicated at a young age when people are trying to find their strengths and weaknesses. Maths is a skill. It’s like learning an instrument. You can practise it and get better. If people tell you it's not your strength, you'll believe them and turn away. So it's really important to encourage ability!”

Michaela herself was a country girl who grew up inspired by her surroundings.

“I grew up in Jindabyne so a lot of my role models were from TV or books,” she tells me. “I was inspired by David Attenborough, Alice Roberts, Brian Cox. Scientists and science communicators who conveyed how science enhanced the beauty of the world. I wanted to work in science from a young age.”

Michaela admits to being like a lot of young girls who doubted their ability and believed the arts/maths dichotomy that you’re either good at one or the other.

“But I had a teacher in Year 11 and 12 who encouraged me. Having a teacher that has faith in your abilities you makes such a difference. So I pursued physics and I went on to work on a particle accelerator,” Michaela says.

Michaela believes that it has never been more important for young people to get engaged in STEM.

“The jobs that students of today will end up doing don’t exist yet. My generation and younger will have a handful of different careers in a lifetime instead of setting up in just one career,” she continues. “Young people want to have the skills that are most transferrable. STEM is an area of study that applies to everything. Anything you can imagine doing has the need for STEM expertise and skills.”

Samsung, in collaboration with Questacon, recently held their 'This is a STEM job' competition to encourage young people to explore the exciting careers they can explore with STEM, from sustainable fashion to music production. Find out more about this exciting initiative and get inspired.

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Samsung Australia is committed to quality STEM education for all young Australians.

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