Objective 3.1

Domestic workforce meets the needs of industry

The Government and industry agree that ensuring graduates are well-equipped with the knowledge and skills needed now and into the future is key to the international competitiveness of Australian services.

Industry representatives noted their concern that current university programs, career pathways offered by industry, and student preferences were not attracting young people to technical professions in the services sector.

For example, despite mining services being an area in which Australia leads globally, most Australian universities had discontinued their mining engineering programs owing to a lack of demand. According to the Department of Education, Skills and Employment, mining engineering enrolments fell from 2724 in 2012 to 850 in 2019.

Industry representatives noted that internal university surveys had shown that the major reasons students do not choose to study mining engineering were due to lack of information; negative associations with climate change and coal; lifestyle concerns (numerous causes); employment stability concerns in mining services; and the political stigma associated with the mining industry.

Industry representatives noted that leadership within the industry, supported by government, was needed to more visibly hold up technical professionals. These professionals operate at the forefront of technology, championing sustainability, and contributing to Australian services exports. This could be supported by incentives for universities to take new approaches to ensure courses are directly relevant to exporting services industries.

Industry supported the initiatives in the Resources 2030 Task Force Report, National Resources Statement 2019, and the Society of Mining Professors: Mines of the Future document. They emphasised the need for government and industry joint leadership on maintaining the human resources critical to the global mining industry throughout the commodity cycle in order to retain core technical and technology competencies for export markets.

Industry also noted that specific skillsets in humanities, such as communications, continued to fall away at a time when such skillsets were critical for export purposes.

The Government agrees that it is crucial for the higher education system to produce job-ready graduates who will support Australia’s economic growth.

Australia has an established reputation for its high-quality education and training system, underpinned by strong legal and regulatory frameworks. Our education and training system is characterised by an evidence-based and future-focused approach. This ensures graduates are well-equipped with the knowledge and skills needed now, and into the future, in a globalised labour market.

We continually review Australia’s education and training system, so we have the right structural and regulatory systems to meet the changing needs of individuals and businesses. This includes the needs of services exporters in a period of increasing complexity and rapid technological change.

Our approach is to ensure Australian Government funding for university places is in line with contemporary evidence on: the cost of delivering university education; increased transparency; and greater flexibility to higher education providers to produce graduates in disciplines that reflect the national interest.

To this end, the Government has announced the Job-Ready Graduates package to ensure there are more in-demand Australian graduates. The package creates more university places for Australian students, provides more funding and support to regional students and universities, makes it cheaper to study in areas of expected job growth, and strengthens relationships between universities and business to drive workforce participation and productivity.

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