Future doctors, scientists, engineers and mechanics will emerge from the Hunter's HSC class of 2020.
While their career paths may be diverse, their formative engagement with STEMM subjects - those which incorporate the disciplines of science, technology, engineering, mathematics and medicine - are likely to have played a significant role in shaping their post-school goals.
The Hunter Region is among the fastest growing regions for STEMM participation in the state, which is delivering dividends for students' study options and employment outcomes.
Cessnock High School student Kasey Scott credits the STEMM curriculum as a factor in her decision to pursue a medical degree next year.
"Cessnock High is a very STEMM-driven school," Kasey, who was introduced to STEMM concepts in Year 8, said.
"It opened us up to innovative thinking and encouraged us to think abstractly. It also allowed us to go on excursions and talk to people in careers that we might be interested in."
"The University of Newcastle is a world leader in research and education, and we have strong working relationships with industry and government. We know that with these three groups working together, we will have far greater impact than by going it alone," - University of Newcastle Vice Chancellor Alex Zelinsky said.
"As the largest growth centre in NSW outside Sydney, the Hunter is well-equipped to take the lead in supporting the state's economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic." - University of Newcastle Vice Chancellor Alex Zelinsky
"The university can play a natural role in this recovery, as Australia's number one university for collaboration with industry, by providing facilities that bring people together in education, research, innovation, and entrepreneurship."
Hunter Region schools have some of the highest increases in STEMM participation rates in the state over the past seven years - an average of 19 per cent compared to -0.5 per cent.
"I don't believe it's one program in the Hunter that has led to that success, it has been a combination of work that has happened at Newcastle uni, Regional Development Australia (Hunter) and the NSW Department of Education," Hunter-based STEMM industry Schools partnership program leader Scott Sleap said.
"We also have had very strong industry support for around 10 years now."
Dr Sleap said the university's STEMM hub would build on the existing success and prepare graduates to make significant contributions in both emerging and established industries.
"The whole concept of the STEMM building is that it promotes an integrated approach between the different fields in multi-disciplinary areas. That's the way industry is working so tertiary and secondary education has to come on board and help develop the skill sets that young people are going to need for the future," he said.
Dr Sleap said the STEMM hub would be a critical regional resource that would provide young people with skills they needed for jobs that would emerge in coming decades.
"We have massive STEMM skill shortages in our workforce but our schools and universities generally haven't really been up to the rapid change that is occurring," he said.
"What that means is we are going to be heavily reliant on overseas workers that Australians could do but we are not preparing them with the skill sets for the jobs that are coming.
"There is a massively important restructure that needs to occur and that STEMM building will play a major role in it."
Professor Zelinsky said the STEMM Hub would deliver a 'living-lab' environment to grow and nurture skills that would will power jobs and industries of the future.
"It's exciting to think of the potential we will realise - and create for younger generations - by fostering partnerships that grow research and development expertise through the Regional Transformation Hub," Professor Zelinski said.
"The best projects for the region are those that attract investment and support from government and industry. Through the right mix of government investment, university expertise and regional partners, the University of Newcastle will be closer to fulfilling our vision to support growth industries such as biotechnology and advanced manufacturing right here in the Hunter, through the Hunter Regional Transformation Hub.
"We will also strengthen Australia's global competitive edge in established industries like agriculture, healthcare, and resources."
Federal Newcastle MP Sharon Claydon encouraged the federal government to support the Regional Transformation Hub.
"It's high time that the federal government stopped its senseless, ideological attacks on higher education and instead committed to supporting the very sector that we know will play a critical role in the nation's post-coronavirus economic recovery," she said.
"The University of Newcastle's STEMM Regional Transformation Hub is an ideal stimulus investment opportunity for the federal government. It will create jobs and help rebuild our local economy today, while also setting up our region to be a leader in the industries of tomorrow."
STEM Industry School Partnerships
c/o Cessnock High School