Lifting Kiwi students' business savvy at AUT

A new research centre has been launched at AUT University to address the gap in entrepreneurial skills of tertiary students in New Zealand.

The Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics Tertiary Education Centre (STEM-TEC) at AUT University will offer 15 education projects focused on providing research opportunities and educational resources for the teaching of STEM subjects at tertiary level.  

To date, the majority of the promotion of STEM subject has occurred in primary and secondary education, with relatively separate and targeted initiatives at third level education.

This new centre will research and implement best practice strategies for the teaching and learning of STEM subjects.

To achieve this, the project is currently establishing a STEM Student Entrepreneurs Club to encourage graduates to stimulate innovation in the New Zealand tech sector.

Other live projects include themes such as increasing the retention and success rates in tertiary STEM programmes and enhancing the growth of high achieving tertiary STEM students.

The mission of STEM-TEC is also to increase the number and enhance the quality of in-demand New Zealand STEM graduates.

Founding Director of STEM-TEC, Sergiy Klymchuk, says that the new centre will take a multi-dimensional approach to tertiary STEM education to produce quality graduates in the science and technology sectors.

Klymchuk adds: “The majority of users of the Centre will participate via regular seminars; professional development block courses, exchange programmes and international conferences.

“However, we also want to engage with our community, including Maori, Pacific Peoples and female students, through contests, competitions and promotional events.

“As the Centre is hosted online it also gives us a greater level of flexibility to adapt to the needs of our users and the industries our graduates will become part of.”

Founded in 2013, STEM-TEC is used by lecturers from AUT and other New Zealand tertiary institutions, who are interested in formal research in STEM subjects and new educational strategies for the teaching of STEM subjects.

The Centre will also work with domestic and international public and private partners to enhance the quality of STEM education at the tertiary level.  Through these partnership, STEM-TEC seeks to broaden its reach, attract further students into STEM subjects and increase career opportunities.

Research points to student entrepreneurs and their businesses rarely surviving beyond six years while students also tend to wind up their businesses when they graduate, with fewer than 20% continuing more than a year after they leave university (Gray and Kirkwood, 2010).

In a 2011 report comparing global students’ entrepreneurial aspirations specific to Australia/New Zealand, Anna Garcia and Brendan Gray from the University of Otago wrote that students placed a high degree of importance on entrepreneur education, seminars and general questions but were less aware of how to use incubators.