Boral sharing real-world experience with teachers
Our people are mentoring science, technology, engineering and mathematics teachers through the CSIRO Industry-Education Program.
Belinda Townsend was a young teenager sitting in a lab doing “real experiments” at Moorebank High School when she realised science was going to be her career path.
The moment of excitement in that south-western Sydney classroom continued with an enthusiasm for a structured introduction to science, which clarified her decision to pursue a career as an industrial chemist.
Today the Innovation Projects Manager is taking her love of science and sharing her knowledge with teachers of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) subjects through a specialised education-industry partnership program facilitated by CSIRO and initiated by David Bolton, General Manager of Quarries NSW/ACT.
It manages a database of teachers ranging from kindergarten to year 12 who are seeking mentoring from a STEM professional to help them bring real-world skills into their classrooms.
“Often STEM teachers don’t have a background in industry, so it can be difficult for them to make the connection between what they teach in the classroom and what happens in the real world for their students,” Belinda said. “Without this link it is difficult for students to understand possible applications and careers related to the concepts they are being taught.”
Belinda nominated to be involved in the program, explaining in her application her experience, location, availability and what she could offer such as site tours, career talks and classroom lessons.
“I like sharing my knowledge with others,” Belinda said. “I have always enjoyed STEM so if I can help others find a passion for STEM, or help those already interested learn more about what a career in this industry could look like, then I would get personal satisfaction from that. I like the opportunity of being a role model for students who perhaps have an interest in STEM, but no one to help them pursue this.”
Belinda said it was recognised that fewer students were enrolling in STEM studies, yet this area of employment was one of the fastest growing and Boral would be among the companies in need of more employees with these qualifications.
“With the introduction of more automation, and an increased focus on innovation and transformation, STEM is critical to the future of Boral,” she said. “The business needs people who can effectively problem-solve and apply new technologies to existing processes, these are key skills of STEM-qualified people.
“For innovation to work, you need diversity in thinking to both generate new ideas and find ways to deliver these into the business. A key skill of STEM is problem-solving, which is effectively what innovation is all about – finding new ways to do old things.”
Belinda started with Boral’s cement business as a graduate in 1998 after completing her Bachelor of Science in Industrial Chemistry at the University of NSW. She has managed the laboratory, quality control and quality assurance program at Boral’s cement manufacturing plant in Berrima, NSW; been responsible for product quality and performance; analysed data to identify issues and improvement opportunities; and involved in various continuous improvement projects such as evaluating alternate raw materials and changing product formulations. She moved to her current role at the Innovation Factory in April 2018.
Boral targeted the CSIRO STEM program because it aligned with several of the company’s values including our diversity and inclusion objectives. This included the opportunity to work with schools, teachers and students in important areas where our company operates; schools with a high indigenous population.
Belinda will also take part in networking events such as workshops and webinars for her development and to learn from other partnerships arranged by CSIRO. She is one of five Boral employees to participate in the program.
“I gain personal enjoyment from sharing knowledge on something I’m passionate about and hopefully showing school students that a STEM career is possible and something they should be considering,” she said. “I enjoy giving back to the community in a way that to me is quite easy, but also quite unique, in that not everyone can offer what I can.”