Thursday, 5 May 2016
Standing Committee on Education and Employment
by leave—I am making a statement on behalf of the Standing Committee on Education and Employment relating to its inquiry—innovation and creativity: workforce for the new Economy. This will be an abridged statement. I recognise that there is a conscripted audience here as well, so thank you.
On 2 February 2016, the Minister for Education and Training, the Hon. Simon Birmingham, referred an inquiry into those matters that ensure that Australia's tertiary education system can meet the needs of the future labour force that is focused on innovation and creativity. There are already more people worldwide that have access to a smartphone or mobile device than they do to adequate toiletry and hygiene facilities; already, we see up to one-third of the population with smartphones. Within about 10 years, there will be a $700 billion economy for machine to machine internet connection—M2M connection—and we expect more machine internet connection than there are people on the planet.
Australia, in this period, has enjoyed sustained economic growth, but to meet these challenges we have to be looking at how to do things smarter. Of course, the resource industry has been successful and manufacturing has moved in niche markets, but to sustain Australia's high standard of living we need to be looking with forensic detail at how to do things better. As with other developed nations, Australia's investment in human capital is the key. This investment needs to start from home and continue through school with teachers, career advisers, VET providers, universities and employers. Government has an obligation to make sure we do this properly.
In the committee's work to date, we have received 70 submissions, held four hearings and looked at a range of issues most pertinent to those sectors. Several themes have emerged from these roundtables in considering how to ensure students in particular are appropriately skilled for the jobs of the new economy. We identified critical enablers which we hope to look at in more detail. We also took evidence on how to increase collaboration between higher education providers and industry—absolutely essential and an area where Australia does, regrettably, lag. Each of these themes has shown that there are various issues that need far more considered discussion in a subsequent parliamentary term.
This committee has not yet had the opportunity to develop detailed recommendations, but the evidence strongly suggests that it should. The committee urges the Minister for Education and Training appointed in the 45th Parliament to re-refer this specific inquiry. Re-referral will equip the newly constituted committee with the time and resources to gather more evidence and carefully consider recommendations for a report.