Nurturing an Industry-Ready Workforce in STEM

Pictured: Macquarie University student performing research skills in the lab. Photo by Chris Stacey.

With input and participation from many host organisations such as the Johnson & Johnson Family of Companies, Cancer Council NSW among others, Macquarie University science students are given the opportunity to have industry-based elements added to their University degree. Since 2012, Macquarie University has made it's multi award-winning PACE (Professional and Community Engagement) program available to students. The program encourages students to apply learning in practice and to contribute by undertaking projects or interning at host organisations, gaining valuable industry experience and skills.

PACE enables students to participate in industry related projects across a range of disciplines including STEM, health and human sciences. The program gives students the opportunity to take part in an industry internship, or an industry related group project, to progress their skills to be workplace ready. The scale, scope and diversity of the program is fully integrated and credited in student courses, establishing a strong partnership between students, host organisations and the university itself.

Academic and Program Director of PACE, Lindie Clark, has found that the program has given students an understanding of industry pathways and experience in professional environments.

“PACE engages students in rich learning activities that activate their emotions as well as their intellect,” Ms Clark said.

“By working on projects that simultaneously meet the needs of our industry and community partners, students find meaning and relevance in their studies.”

As an Australian Government established Industry Growth Centre, MTPConnect’s mandate includes increasing collaboration and commercialisation, and improving management and workforce’s skills. The Macquarie University PACE program highlights an immersive example of educating students on the importance of industry-research collaboration, and current and future market needs, early in their career. By promoting collaboration between students and host organisations, the PACE program supports pathways for students to acquire professional training as well as contribute to building a dynamic and supportive research culture for them to thrive. PACE also highlights the potential to access links to commercialisation opportunities and discover the social infrastructure of organisations to support ongoing collaboration.

Approximately 30,000 students have participated in the PACE program over five years, with more than 8,000 students enrolling in over 80 PACE units in 2017. Students are given the resources and tools to navigate their courses and discover their future ambitions with real industry experience. As well as gaining valuable industry experience, students can also begin to build a professional network to draw and learn from before graduating.

Clinical science student at Macquarie University, Jordan Griffiths said she valued her opportunity with the Johnson & Johnson Family of Companies.

"The PACE program offered me the opportunity to complete an internship with the Johnson & Johnson Family of Companies,” Ms Griffiths explained.

“My experience within the medical devices industry allowed me to delve deeper into my prospective career paths as a medical student, and I have come to feel a greater sense of flexibility within my studies, and am excited to think of where they could take me."

Macquarie University has a wide network with over 2,500 host organisations from local, regional and international areas that work across private, public, community-based and not-for-profit sectors.

Through their placements, students have brought knowledge, skills and fresh ideas to the host organisations, giving them the opportunity to engage in research collaborations, to attend focus groups in the neuroscience discipline, engage with community members to address antibiotic resistance, and participate in quality assurance audits for new and innovative medical technologies. It also provided industry partners with a potential pipeline for new recruits and a resource to develop projects and collaborations with research.

Research Fellow at the Cancer Council NSW, a host organisation that has participated in the program, Dr Eleonora Feletto said she appreciated the experience.

“What I enjoyed most was the enthusiasm the students brought to the project,” Dr Feletto added. “You can’t buy that.”

To learn more about Macquarie University’s PACE program, visit: