Why is it important to build skills and capability in regional Australia

Here at Grandshake we know two things for sure. Young people are looking for opportunities to pursue their dreams and regional Australia needs to retain them to ensure its own future.

If regional businesses and industry can step up to engage young people in work experience there is a chance to break the cycle of losing their brightest stars to the big cities and furthermore attract people seeking a regional lifestyle.

The future jobs market is changing rapidly and with the right support, young people can enjoy a successful career from any location.

Here are four reasons why it’s important for industry to help build skills and capability in regional Australia.

Regional students need career pathways and opportunities beyond year 12

Now, more than ever, regional Australian businesses and industry need to support our school leavers by bridging the gap from school to working life. 

Rural advocate and author of Australian Rural Entrepreneurs Kerry Anderson says we need to expose young people to wider possibilities while they are still at school. 

“Community and industry champions are essential to mentor young people, give them work experience, and to help open doors for them,” she says. “It can be as simple as an encouraging word, planting the seed of an idea or introducing them to the right person.”

Further education is tightly linked to further prosperity and ambitious young people who grow up in regional Australia don’t necessarily want to leave their home or move to a big city.

Students who study tertiary education in a regional area are more likely to work regionally after graduating. Between 2013 and 2016, 69 percent of employed undergraduates and 55 percent of employed postgraduate-level graduates from regional universities ended up working in regional areas after graduating, according to research by the Regional Universities Network (RUN).

By comparison, only 23 percent of employed graduates from non-RUN universities worked in regional Australia. These statistics show the power of industry and education working together to broaden regional pathways and retain the future workforce. 

Regions need to adapt to the future jobs market 

The type of jobs Australia’s regions need is changing rapidly. The next wave of technology will threaten low-skilled service jobs as apps and automation replace people. But as some jobs disappear, others will be created. 

“Adversity is a great breeding ground for entrepreneurs,” Ms Anderson says. “As jobs are lost, the unemployed will draw on their skills and talent to take control of their own destiny and become their own boss.”

According to The Future of Regional Jobs report there are already signs of skills shortages in some regions.

Regional Australia needs to be ready to adapt to the changing jobs market. This means helping reskill those vulnerable to job automation and attracting quality talent to fill gaps.

At the moment that shortage appears to be primarily in health, social care and education. 

The report notes regions are expected to need another 85,000 workers across healthcare and social assistance and another 28,000 in education by 2023.

But what about further into the future? In 2016, the Regional Australia Institute and NBN identified three key points for success:

  • In-demand jobs will be high tech, high touch or high care roles. Think teacher, engineer, plumber, photographer, childcare worker.
  • Those entering the job market in 2030 will need a mix of both technical and soft personal skills for success.
  • Future jobs will be flexible, entrepreneurial and dynamic.

Ms Anderson strongly agrees with the final point, arguing the conversation needs to change from job seeking to job creating.

“We need to value the collective impact of every small business that is strengthening our regions,” she says. “We need to develop critical thinking skills and learn to be agile and adaptable.

“Young people need to learn to work without supervision, communicate effectively and be able to manage their own time and budgets.”

Create a digital future for regional Australia

With a helpful nudge from Covid-19 (perhaps the only silver lining), most offices have been pushed through a digital transformation to allow workers to log in from home. 

At first, bosses were worried about how they would know if their employees were working or not without seeing them. But lots of workplaces actually saw an uptick in productivity as staff proved they could hit deadlines more independently.

This new age of digitisation means many jobs can now be done from any location with good WiFi. With the help of digital tools, teams can collaborate on projects from anywhere in the country, or even world.

The Future of Regional Jobs report suggests industry needs to jump on this opportunity and help young people get ready to drive growth in their communities with flexible-location jobs.

 “A more digital world means that future jobs will need more high technology digital skills, as well as entrepreneurial training to make the most of opportunities,” the report says.
“In addition to these technical skills, jobs of the future will require soft skills in communication, collaboration, creativity and problem solving.”

Keep regional communities alive 

Industry needs regional economies to thrive and be an attractive option for young people. After all, keeping regional students engaged in their communities could ultimately keep these communities alive and prosperous.

Research from the Australian Clearinghouse for Youth Studies found young people who were engaged in their regional, rural and remote communities and felt able to contribute were more likely to stay.

With a rapidly aging population, it’s more critical than ever for businesses to retain, support and attract young people into regional areas. Working-age people pay taxes and rates, which fund services for towns and regions. Prosperous towns with low unemployment often have lower crime rates, and if young people settle and start families there are more pupils for the local school.

“Most who have been brought up in the regions will eventually return for the lifestyle, particularly when they are ready to start raising a family,” Ms Anderson says. 
“And now COVID-19 has opened up many eyes of city residents to new opportunities in the regions.

“We need to ensure that young people, especially those moving into a new regional setting, are connected socially so they can best appreciate what regions have to offer in terms of liveability.”

You can learn more about our industry-led regional skills initiative aka Grand Opportunities here.

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