Jackson Carr earned an honours degree in geology from the Australian National University before embarking on a career as a hydrogeologist with a Perth engineering firm.But that was before the mining boom ended, and from next year the ultra-bright 28-year-old will begin a new career teaching science to high school students.
Mr Carr, who is completing a teaching degree, is part of an encouraging trend at the University of Western Australia, where the number of postgraduate students from science and maths backgrounds has soared 64 per cent this year.
UWA dean of education Helen Wildy said the big increase in student enrolments was largely a result of the downturn in the state’s mining industry.
“We have an inverse relationship with the mining sector. When it was booming, our numbers went down in all subjects, particularly in the maths and sciences,” she said.
“We have a lot of career changers, as well as people with high marks who did law or engineering.” Dr Wildy said the increase was overdue as it would lead to higher quality teaching in critical science, technology, engineering and maths subjects.
STEM subjects are expected to underpin the future of Australia’s economy, but policymakers are concerned about the poor qualifications of many secondary school teachers in these fields.
Mr Carr said he moved to Perth in 2012 to work for an engineering firm but was retrenched after 10 months as the mining boom wound down. “It was pretty brutal,” he said.
He then began a PhD at UWA but, realising he did not want a career in academia, enrolled in a one-year graduate diploma of teaching at the university.
He said teaching should never be seen as a lower level career and he looked forward to imparting his passion for science to young people.
“I want a job where I can make a difference,” he said. Fellow student Hannah Newmann, 22, is set to become a high school chemistry teacher and hopes to help break down the stereotype that science is a field for men: “That’s partly why I became a teacher — to encourage girls to get into physical sciences because they tend to opt for no science at all or the biological sciences.”
Ms Newmann enrolled in UWA’s two-year master of teaching course after completing a bachelor of science in 2013.
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