21st Century Minds reaches a major milestone

STEM is currently a hot topic in the press, with extensive coverage of Australia’s Science and Maths performance remaining stagnant for the last 20 years. We recognised that this was a problem worth solving back in 2014 and went about determining the role that PwC could play in solving it.

At the start of this year we proudly launched our flagship education initiative, the 21st Century Minds Accelerator (21CM) Program. Twenty of Australia’s best science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) education initiatives were selected to participate in the program, designed to unearth, grow and scale their ventures.

Created with PwC’s global purpose of building trust and solving important problems in mind, we saw a strong need for Australia to ensure it’s reputation as an innovation nation. The 21CM program was designed in response to broad, cross sector stakeholder engagement on how PwC could add value to improving STEM education outcomes in Australia. Rather than creating another initiative we harnessed the skills and expertise in the firm and channeled it into growing 20 of Australia’s best STEM education initiatives.

It was a unique way for the firm to deliver social impact through collaboration. We have co-designed and collaborated with a wide variety of our clients and other stakeholders such as the Office of the Chief Scientist, Google, NAB, BP, Education Changemakers and the Foundation for Young Australians. We would like to take this opportunity to thank our passionate community for their contribution to the program and their commitment to improving educational outcomes in STEM.

“The access you gave participants to businesses, government and the education sector, in a setting that made it ok for them to ask for support, was outstanding.” Accelerator collaborator, Foundation for Young Australians

By leveraging the skills, knowledge, expertise and networks of the community, the 21CM program has successfully amplified the impact of these twenty initiatives, which collectively reach over 150,000 students, 900 teachers and 3,500 schools across Australia.

Luke Kerr, founder of Real Time Learning said,

“This has been a most rewarding and timely experience and opportunity for our initiative. I can honestly say this has helped us achieve what could have potentially taken years to achieve.”

Ashley van Krieken of Emerging Sciences Victoria at John Monash Science School also remarked,

“Great program! Participating in it changed my view of PwC, in addition to the other mentors such as Australia Post and NAB. Corporate Australia needs to be fully behind these types of programs and PwC has shown great leadership in this regard.”

The program culminated with two showcase events in Sydney and Melbourne last month, with the 20 initiatives pitching to an audience of teachers, education leaders, investors and those passionate about supporting STEM education in Australia. At both events, the audience voted for the “21CM Innovator of the Year”, with each winner receiving $10,000 from PwC. The winners were the National Indigenous Science and Education Program (NISEP) in Sydney and Code the Future in Melbourne.

The next phase of this program will see us form strategic partnerships with two of the 21CM initiatives in 2017, where we will invest $500,000 in services to continue to amplify the scale and impact of their organisations. We will announce these partnerships early next year.

Finally, we’d like to congratulate all 20 initiatives for your continued hard work and dedication throughout the program. We’re proud this experience has helped scale and accelerate the impact you’re having on the STEM landscape in Australia.

Check out the videos below of our final workshop and Showcase events.

Workshop 3 highlights

Sydney Innovator of the Year – NISEP

Melbourne Innovator of the Year – Code the Future

Kirstyn Chan works in PwC Australia’s Social Impact team and is here to provide you with the latest news from the 21st Century Minds program.  Follow her on Twitter @kirstyn_c.


Developing 21st century students

Our 21st Century Minds collaborators share their views on the top three things that need to change in our schools to prepare our students for the 21st century. Hear from Dr Roslyn Prinsley from the Office of the Chief Scientist and a wide variety of education experts from around Australia as they discuss their tips on what it takes to develop 21st century students equipped for the jobs of the future.

It’s really important that when we are preparing students for the future, that we actually make it real and tangible. That we talk about the jobs, we showcase people who are working in creative and innovative industries. We need to provide inspiration and aspiration for how they can find a pathway forward.

Sally-Ann Williams, Google Australia

What’s the role of technology in education?

Hear from some our 21st Century Minds industry collaborators and education experts as they share their views on the role of technology in education and how it should be used to facilitate learning and change the way children interact with it.

The most important thing is changing children from becoming consumers of technology to becoming the creators of it.

Emma Milburn, GE

What is the role of business in education?

For most people, say “education” and the instant image conjured is “school” – centres of learning that are usually insulated from commercial interests.

With a little investigation, however, it becomes obvious that education and business are, and have always been, intertwined. Universities provide experimentation and research which has immeasurable commercial value (the discovery of DNA, RNA, CRISPR, etc.) as well as graduating the next generation of business professionals.

Likewise, business has long provided funding and research that has made a significant contribution to academia (Lockheed’s Skunk Works, DuPont’s Experimental Station are good examples) as well as feeding back professionals to help shape the learning agenda.

As we look to the future, the more pertinent question becomes: “how can business’ role in education help create a sustainable and equitable future?

At CPA Australia, we are passionate about creating a culture of lifelong learning. Our CPA Program is unique in that we consult extensively with our education partners (which include both business and academia) in order to create technical content that prepares professionals to excel in modern financial roles.

What’s more, we provide our members with the skills necessary to succeed in business strategy and leadership. We teach integrated reporting and contemporary business issues to promote more than just accounting in business, but accountability.

Business has important insights into the challenges of the future and can position itself as a source of solutions. As the biggest accounting membership body in Australia, CPA Australia is committed to being part of those solutions.

Our members are already part of a highly mobile global workforce. The need for individuals to have the skills and capabilities that will allow them to work in a global setting is only going to grow in importance. Our long standing focus on meeting the challenge of preparing a workforce fit for the future aligns with the goals of the 21st Century Minds Accelerator Program.

The additional burden on future generations is that many of the practices of the past will no longer be feasible. Professionals from the STEM disciplines will play an important part in responding to these complex problems. One of our core strategic imperatives is to protect the public interest and secure a pipeline of capable talent for the future. Partnering with the 21st Century Minds Accelerator Program allows us to demonstrate our commitment to Australia’s competition and innovation landscape.

As capable and technically astute businesses create new products, new supply chains and new production methods, CPA Australia and its members will be there to assist in guiding and accounting for these innovations.

With thanks to our contributing author – Paul Drum, Head of Policy, CPA Australia. Follow him on Twitter.

Watch the video below for more insights from our other 21CM collaborators

21C Skills + Passion = Innovation Generation

Digital technology and computer science have changed Australia in many ways in the last decade, and these changes will doubtless continue into the future.

But as these technologies become more and more integrated into our lives, we must ask ourselves: do we wish to be a nation of creators of technology— or just consumers?

We’re already among the world’s heaviest users of tablet devices and smartphones—but knowing how to play games on a tablet is not the same thing as knowing how to create them. One costs money; one generates money. Shifting our focus as a nation from the consumption of technology, to the creation of technology, will help us compete in an increasingly global and connected world.

The opportunities for our children are enormous. The young people who grow up with Australia’s new Digital Technologies curriculum—our first ‘innovation generation’—will have the some of the world’s most sought-after and highly-valued skills. Globally, the demand for computer science and computational thinking skills only continues to accelerate. The technology sector worldwide holds huge potential for the creation of high-value jobs and wealth; the tech startup sector alone in Australia has the capacity to contribute $109 billion directly to GDP and create 540,000 new jobs by 2033. A highly-skilled workforce is the key to unlocking this value.

In Google’s experience, an introduction to computational thinking in early years provides the strongest possible pathway for students to engage with and excel in computer science, and benefit from the careers it enables. Yet today, Australian students with tertiary Computer Science skills are falling in number and make up just two percent of the total of domestic graduates.

So how do we encourage more students to study Computer Science? Honestly, changing the name might help, since the name “Computer Science” sounds a bit intimidating, doesn’t it? Certainly there is a scientific/mathematical basis to CS, but the CS practitioner mostly relies on Computational Thinking (CT) skills. CT includes pattern recognition, pattern abstraction (generalization), modeling, design, and programming (coding). Naturally, these are skills that are needed to create software, through the process of software engineering. What is not as well appreciated is that CT is applicable to more than just software engineering; it is increasingly a critical skill for understanding and using the computing technology that underpins much of our modern society.

CS has been cosying up to the sciences for a long time, where the term computational science is well known. CS + physics = computational physics, CS + chemistry = computational chemistry, CS + biology = bioinformatics, etc. Scientists have merely understood for some time, what everyone else now realizes, and that is that CS combined with another discipline, brings with it new insights and new ways of approaching things. We call this “CS + X”, where “X” can be virtually anything. For example, CS + retail = online shopping, CS + finance = “fin tech” (think online banking, personal finance management, etc.), CS + music = products like “Pandora”, CS + health = fitness products like “Fit Bit”, etc. The opportunities are endless. There’s even an Aussie startup called myEvidence combining CS + crime fighting.

And therein lies the answer to my earlier question.

Students will be a whole lot more excited about studying Computer Science if they can combine it with their passion, their “X.”

Universities around the world are starting to recognize this by introducing CS + X programs, where X can be any subject area, not just a science. We need flexible university degrees like this in Australia too. Then we just need to ask students the question, “what’s your “X”?

When we can equip students with 21st century skills and help them combine these with their passions we’ll be taking a giant step towards creating the next innovation generation.

For more information on computational thinking and other resources, check out google.com.au/startwithcode.

With thanks to our contributing author – Alan Noble, Engineering Director, Google Australia and New Zealand. Follow him on Google+ or Twitter.

This post has been created with permission of Google Australia and is based on articles originally posted on the Google Australia Blog.