Multiversity NSW and the future of STEM

Engineers Australia

Monday, 21 June, 2021

Multiversity NSW and the future of STEM

Engineers Australia (EA) has welcomed the NSW and Australian governments’ announcement of a ‘Multiversity’ as part of the Western Sydney Aerotropolis development.

The Aerotropolis Multiversity is set to deliver a new approach to education and training, connecting the future of learning to the jobs of the future. It will be an Australia-first collaboration, with the University of Newcastle, UNSW Sydney, the University of Wollongong, Western Sydney University and TAFE NSW joining forces to establish a new education, training and research approach ready for the 22nd century, centred on the Western Sydney Aerotropolis and Western Parkland City.

The global pandemic highlighted just how crucial engineers are to creating resilient communities, building robust supply chains and manufacturing vaccines. And given border closures and immigration restrictions, the national STEM skills gap has only become worse.

Even prior to COVID-19, Australia’s domestic supply of qualified engineers did not meet demand: this at a time when the economic growth and innovation of the future is set to come from areas such as Industry 4.0, quantum engineering, 3D printing and AI.

The Multiversity is the first step towards what EA hopes will be a fundamental pivot by government towards domestically solving our STEM shortage.

“It has been encouraging to see significant buy-in from a number of universities and TAFEs, with these institutions moving towards more flexible modes of study,” the organisation said.

EA believes that while the Multiversity is in its early days, expanding the number and variety of courses to encompass a wider range of engineering subjects will add value and give students more choice in what they can study. Similarly, the courses currently available are overwhelmingly targeting students at the undergraduate level, and EA believes that more can be done: tapping into demand from middle and executive management seeking to upskill and network within the industry may be a useful area to consider.

The commercialisation of engineering innovation continues to be a perennial weakness of Australia’s STEM ecosystem. Introducing study blocks focused on commercialisation and the business component of engineering alongside traditional engineering units will be an important contribution to solving this issue.

Given the qualifications offered are Diplomas or Certificates, the time constraints may mean integrating business components may be a more viable alternative.

Considering a standalone qualification focused on the commercialisation of engineering innovation would be a unique value that Multiversity would be in a strong position to deliver for students, according to EA.

This type of course would fit well with the Aerotropolis’s macro vision as an innovation hub and provide what may be the missing link between generating solutions and bringing them to market.

The future of engineering and the ongoing challenges of COVID-19 require us to fundamentally rethink how we engage with our national STEM skills shortage. EA believes the Multiversity is well positioned to be at the forefront of filling this gap and being part of the solution.

Moving beyond traditional modes of learning and partnering with the private sector is encouraging, particularly if coupled with modules on how to commercialise innovation, the organisation said.

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