Pioneering STEM program for Queensland primary schools addresses skills shortages of the future

In February 2022, the Makers Empire team travelled to Queensland to deliver professional development and training to schools in the South West region who are taking part in a pioneering STEM program that aims to provide educators with the tools and knowledge to teach specialist design and technology skills.

This groundbreaking STEM project delivers a world-leading STEM, additive manufacturing and 3D printing project providing professional learning for primary school teachers. Teachers will learn how to use innovative maker-based pedagogies to teach 3D modelling, design thinking and design technologies in integrated ways across the curriculum. This project is a collaboration between Queensland Government’s Department of Education and Department of Regional Development, Manufacturing and Water working in partnership with Queensland Manufacturing Institute and Makers Empire.  

The project aligns with the Queensland Advanced Manufacturing 10-Year Roadmap and Action Plan, the Skills Implementation Plan for Advanced Manufacturing, a Strategy for STEM in Queensland state schools, the National Stem School Education Strategy and works with the Advanced Manufacturing Gateway to Industry Schools Program (GISP).

The project will be delivered across two different regions: south-east schools completed the program in Term 3 and 4 in 2021 and south-west regional schools will complete the program in Term 1 and 2 in 2022. 

South East Region Queensland Schools

During term three and four of 2021, Hillcrest Christian College, St Francis Xavier Catholic School,  Numinbah Valley State School, Gainsborough State School, Worongary State School, Robina State School and Pimpama State School took part in program comprising Makers Empire’s Learning by Design course for teachers, industry site visits and students completing STEM focused units of work.

During the professional development days, teachers took part in Learning by Design activities at Hillcrest Christian College before visiting the Advanced Design Prototyping Technologies Institute at Griffith University on the Gold Coast to further develop and strengthen ties with manufacturing industry partners.

In November 2021, the South-East schools came together for a showcase event at St Francis Xavier Catholic School (Runaway Bay) to celebrate and share their learning.

South West Region Queensland Schools

The South-West schools in the 2022 cohort are Our Lady of the Southern Cross College (Dalby),  Concordia Lutheran College (Toowoomba), Dalby South State School,  Dirranbandi P-10 State School, Vale View State School, Meringandan State School and Haden State School. 

During the recent two professional development days in February 2022, teachers participated in Learning by Design activities activities led by Mandi Dimitriadis, Director of Learning, and Luke Tansell, Hardware Expert. Local teachers, Jay Wright from Vale View State School and Renitta Flynn from Dalby South State School, also shared their experiences of using Makers Empire to teach STEM.


Teachers in this group also visited the Wagner Composite Fibre Technologies in Toowoomba. This site visit provided teachers with real-world and industry linkages to apply in student learning and introduced teachers to the world-class advanced manufacturing capability present in Toowoomba. 

During the tour of the facilities, Wagner team members explained the process of how customer products, such as electricity and utility poles and bridges, are developed. The Wagner team also answered questions from teachers and shared that having a great work ethic combined with problem-solving skills was key to having a successful career at Wagner. 

During the tour, Wagner team member, Alfred, was glad to run in into his former teacher, Sally, one of the participating teachers. Sally was actually one of Alfred’s first primary school teachers when he arrived in Australia! 

Addressing Future Skills Shortages Today

Minister for Regional Development, Manufacturing and Water Glenn Butcher said tapping into the future of the multi-billion-dollar manufacturing industry, by giving educators the skills and the tools to inspire children to study in these areas, is the best way forward.

“We need to inspire kids, we need to foster their curiosity and encourage them to think about studying these fields now.

“It’s never too early to start introducing career options to the next generation of problem solvers,” he said.

Education Minister Grace Grace said that, through Schools of the future: A strategy for STEM in Queensland state schools, the Queensland Government was committed to encouraging more students to engage in STEM, to prepare them for the jobs of the future.

“Our strategy to strengthen STEM education in Queensland includes building teacher capability; lifting student achievement; and increasing student participation,” Ms Grace said.

“This program equips educators with the tools, knowledge and support they need to empower our students with the core capabilities required for our Advanced Manufacturing Industry.”

Queensland Manufacturing Institute Executive Director Shay Chalmers said – like many industries – filling roles is becoming a critical problem.

“Manufacturing is suffering one of the highest rates of skills shortages in the labour market and increasing our pipeline of future STEM workers is critical for our industry’s success,” she said.

“While most people see manufacturing as an ‘industry’, it is really is a series of capabilities. The building blocks of these capabilities begin when our children are in school, which is why this program is so important.”

Minister Butcher said Queensland’s manufacturing industry was becoming more advanced through the introduction of industry 4.0 technology, improved business process and practices and developing and training the workforce of the future. 

“The Queensland Government is committed to ensuring that a pipeline of future workers are exposed very early to the technology-rich career opportunities and critical thinking and problem solving skills requirements needed to work in the advanced state,” Mr Butcher said.

Makers Empire co-founder Lap Leung thanked the Queensland Government for supporting the introduction of the program.

“This program is an excellent example of the way education departments and industry partners can help to develop a world-class program to help build skills capacity in primary school teachers and in interest in a future career in STEM and advanced manufacturing in young students.”

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