EdConnect Australia held its first state event since the merger of TimeHelp and the Student Volunteer Program on Monday 11 November 2019 at PricewaterhouseCooper in Southbank. At the recent EdConnect event, three STEM coaches were invited to participate in a panel discussion to speak about their STEM pathway and their experience with the pilot program. There was a very strong and clear message from the three coaches that they were able to articulate to their students, which focused on developing a plan B. With the second option focusing on their skills and enjoyment, rather than an avenue to get back to plan A. The other focus included self-care and managing their study workload. As one coach suggested, ‘eating the frog’ an analogy used to describe tackling the hardest task as the first task for the day, which was well received by students and a strategy they began to apply.

EdConnect CEO Gerri Clay stated, “The event was a great achievement for the organisation and provided an opportunity to thank and recognise volunteers, stakeholders, funders and supporters of EdConnect. In particular it was important to highlight the work and support of STEM coaches and school staff who participated in the recent Girls in STEM pilot program, funded by Gandel Philanthropy.”

8 Schools participated in the pilot across the North and West of Melbourne and Geelong which included Geelong High School, Northern Bay College, Bellarine Secondary College and Newcomb Secondary College.

EdConnect recruited 10 STEM coaches to support 46 female students ranging from year 10 to 12 who were currently study STEM related subjects.

EdConnect East Coast General Manager Danie McNeil explains, “the Girls in STEM pilot program aspired to provide a volunteer program to bridge this gap and support more girls to continue with STEM subjects/careers.”

The girls in STEM program ran for ten weeks, which occurred in terms 2 and 3 2019. In the ten weeks, the coaches focused on getting to know the students and what STEM future and employment they hoped to seek. Coaches discussed relevant issues for students which ranged from academic results, to pathways and opportunities for university and beyond, to techniques for studying and stress management.

Those coaching year 10 students focused to motivate, create awareness about STEM opportunities, provide support and encouragement to continue in STEM. Year 11 students discussed career pathways, confidence building, possible University experience, work application, strategies for coping. Finally,  Year 12 students focused on self-belief, resilience, empowerment and remaining focused.

The program was evaluated with the support of PwC, with data collected from students, school leading STEM teachers and STEM coach volunteers. There was very strong data that the students will continue with STEM subjects which was a key objective of the pilot program. The STEM coaches felt it was a great program to motivate Girls in STEM.

Alex White from Gandel Philanthropy closed the evening with presenting certificates to the STEM coaches and School Leading STEM teachers. Reflecting on the event Ms White felt ‘“It was inspiring to hear the stories of EdConnect’s volunteer STEM coaches. Each story was unique and all provided inspiration and expertise to guide the next generation of female STEM leaders”

EdConnect Australia is not for profit organisation that recruits intergenerational volunteers to assist local schools through learning support and mentoring roles. For more information about EdConnect, their programs and the schools they support can be found at edconnectaustralia.org.au