Ford Australia looks to STEAM power in its commitment to drive students’ interest in technology.

Northern Bay College in Geelong, Victoria, has opened a new lab dedicated to Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math (STEAM). The hub offers equipment, programs and mentorship to help students aged 11-18 learn and explore opportunities in STEAM subjects.

Principal Fred Clarke says the hub at the college 48 miles (75 km) southwest of Melbourne not only provides new opportunities and equipment for experiential learning, but also helps students explore and understand future educational and career possibilities.

With Ford’s support, the college has fitted the facility with the latest digital manufacturing machines including a laser cutter and a computer numerical control plasma cutter.

Both machines require skills such as designing and coding that are taught at the hub. Ford engineers visit regularly to provide mentorship and support for school programs and projects.

Staffers say students who previously showed little interest in STEAM fields are showing higher levels of engagement after taking part in the first STEAM program at the hub.

The interaction with Ford engineers from the Research and Development Centre in Geelong also inspires and motivates the students to challenge themselves, vocational education and training teacher Richard Ellson says.

Ford Asia Pacific STEAM Lead Louise Nance says Ford is keenly aware the world is changing.

“Australia’s future prosperity depends on having a skilled and motivated workforce able to innovate, compete and win in the new economy,” she says.

“In this new world, the practical problem-solving and collaboration skills students can gain through STEAM education can help them find successful, future-proof careers, and ensure a pipeline of talent for Aussie innovation.”

Ford’s Australian R&D investment of A$450 million ($342.7 million) in 2017 involves almost 2,000 people, including 1,750 engineers, designers and technicians.