What the community said
There’s such a shortage of tradespeople in Canberra and small businesses are struggling to find staff. Nurses, teachers and other essential workers have done it tough during the pandemic. Schools are overcrowded in some areas and cuts to university funding is a real concern, as is the increased cost of some degrees. Where is the planning to make sure we are filling skills gaps now, in everything from aged-care workers to hairdressers, while also planning for the jobs of the future such as transitioning mechanics to be able to service electric vehicles?
Every day, across a whole range of different sectors, businesses are grappling with workforce shortages. The pandemic has shown how important it is for us to have access to skilled workers locally. It has also underscored the importance of strong and well-resourced schools, of teachers who are supported and valued, and of rebuilding a strong domestic research capability.
We need government to plan strategically for the future with investment in skills and education to keep our country smart, skilled and full of opportunity.
A strong early education and school system
Speaking to teachers around the ACT, it is clear that the pandemic has taken a huge toll and that they are being asked to do more than ever before. Ensuring good support for students and teachers from preschool all the way through to college is so important for our community. I am committed to being a strong voice to ensure schoolkids and their teachers have access to the resources and support they need, whether that’s in terms of mental health or getting access to great facilities. I support teachers being provided with strong career pathways and being valued and properly compensated for the work they do. Teacher shortages are a real risk and we need to be planning to make sure we attract the next generation of educators. Ongoing funding for early childhood education is critical.
Parents also want to ensure that their children can attend school in their local area. As a growing city, it is vital to ensure that Canberra’s schools are keeping up with demand, especially in high-growth areas.
Long-term commitment to training and apprenticeships
Short-term stimulus measures during the pandemic, while welcome, are not enough. They have shown that a little bit of extra support can go a long way to boosting the uptake and retention of apprentices and trainees. I want to see that investment continue so we have a strong pipeline for emerging skilled workers as well as higher apprenticeship completion rates.
Structural change is needed to make apprenticeship and traineeships attractive and sustainable over the long-term. A cultural shift toward better valuing this career pathway is also needed, along with more effort in promoting it within schools. We must also ensure a higher standard of accredited training providers who are given long-term funding certainty. We need vision and planning that maps out current and emerging skills shortages so we can work to fill those gaps, while also identifying future workforce transitions as needs and technologies change.
A strong and upskilled trades future workforce will be critical to realising the opportunities provided by an accelerated transition to smart energy technologies and more widespread electrification.
Access to university education
Just as we need a strong pipeline of qualified tradespeople to power Australia's economy into the future, we also need a thriving higher education sector. Tertiary education needs to be accessible to everyone and at any time throughout our lives. I believe it is vital to ensure that we have sufficient fully funded places to meet future demand for skilled graduates. Having spoken with many university students, I also support bringing more equity into the costs across different degrees.
Lifting productivity is critical to achieving real wages growth. University research and education has a huge role to play in driving this up. International education is Australia’s top services export. Figures from Universities Australia show that for every $1 invested in research, $5 comes back into the economy. Australia also has an outstanding history in research commercialisation – everything from inventing Wi-Fi to the life-changing “bionic ear” (cochlear implant). We need to keep supporting those discoveries that make our world a better place.
Prior to the pandemic, we witnessed a worrying decline in government investment in research. Going forward, I will work to make sure the government maintains Australia’s world-leading research capability, including by making adequate PhD places available. I will advocate for more longer-term certainty in research investment that is on par with other OECD countries. And I will oppose undue ministerial interference in the allocation of research grants and funding.
Source: Department of Industry data on AusGov R&D spend against ABS data on national GDP in AUD.