Local training the key to keeping our best and brightest
THE best way to get professionals to work in and develop regional Australia is to train them in the regions.
That is the message Regional Universities Network chairman Peter Lee is today preaching at a Gold Coast conference championing higher education outside major cities.
Lismore's Southern Cross University vice chancellor believes regional universities have a fundamental role to play in developing the nation, noting the regional population is expected to grow 26% by 2026.
But he is concerned about the significant gap between higher education attainment the further people travel from the capitals.
"Regional Australia needs trained professionals to work in the regions, to innovate and diversify regional industry and fully participate in the modern economy, to grow regional development and enhance regional productivity," he said.
"As public institutions, regional development is core business to regional universities rather than an add-on to learning, teaching and research functions.
"Economic diversification would pave the way for regional Australia to open up new economic activities including new service industries, niche manufacturing, creative technology, sustainability and green jobs."
He said people with post-school qualifications had greater work opportunity and also made a greater contribution to society.
University of the Sunshine Coast deputy vice-chancellor Birgit Lohmann, also at the RUN conference on the Gold Coast, said the education and training sector was an economic sector in its own right.
"Planning for the provision of quality education and training in Queensland is potentially best served by plans at the regional, rather than the state, level because Queensland is so large, diverse and regionalised."
Regional Australians make up 34% (7.7 million people) of the population.
31% of people aged 25-64 living in major cities held a bachelor degree or higher, compared to about half that in regional Australia.