Transforming Australia’s economy requires a highly skilled workforce for future prosperity

The national body for industry-research collaboration, Cooperative Research Australia (CRA), welcomes the Australian Government initiative on Jobs and Skills and the opportunity to contribute to the Jobs and Skills Summit via our participation at the Ministerial Science and Commercialisation roundtable on 17 August 2022 in Sydney and the White Paper.

“Transforming Australia’s economy to one that builds in prosperity for future generations in a world increasingly affected by climate change, geopolitical shifts and ever-increasing uncertainty, is critical” said Cooperative Research Australia CEO Jane O’Dwyer.

A highly skilled workforce is intrinsically associated with the innovation and productivity needed to transition to a more complex economy. “If we want greater economic complexity and all the benefits that affords us then we need to build ecosystems that offer opportunities for business and industry to grow here, and the creation of opportunities for career pathways that attract the best talent in Australia and globally.

Creating the right conditions for industrial transformation is critical given the post-pandemic climate. Over the years multiple attempts to unleash the potential of industry-led research and collaboration have seen the creation of a system of competing programs that overlap without connecting. A disconnected system does not support the attraction and retention of a highly skilled workforce. 

“It’s imperative we figure out how to make it easier to collaborate and coordinate across our research institutions, national critical research infrastructure facilities, centres of excellence, Cooperative Research Centres, Industry Growth Centres, entrepreneurship programs, state-based incubators and the myriad of pockets of excellence.

“The real potential for transforming existing industries and generating new jobs and career pathways is to build scale by bringing together a variety of research institutions and collaborative entities, small, medium and large businesses to work collectively. 

“We have great success stories here in institutions like CRCs, however we can scale and grow faster with stronger integration across each industry sector. There is an opportunity to draw upon successful Australian models and take the best of approaches such as the UK’s Catapult Centres, to build a uniquely Australian capability.  

“It is time to review the incentives we have for Australians and the most talented prospective migrants to undertake Higher Degree by Research (HDR) studies in Australia and to build a career here.

“We need stipends and scholarships for research training that are not less than you can earn working in a fast-food outlet. It is a disincentive that prevents diversity by locking out those without the means to pursue a higher degree by research and puts off talented mid-career people who are often the real research translation powerhouses. We need rapid pathways to permanent residency and citizenship for research qualified people. 

“A highly skilled workforce should be built from the bottom up, with an eye on diversity to reach our full national potential. We need to recognise, celebrate, value and support talent as an investment in the future prosperity of Australia.   

Cooperative Research Australia is committed to working collaboratively with the Australian Government to build a policy platform that supports a highly skilled workforce that contributes to a complex economy, that ensures an innovative and prosperous country for all Australians.

Further reading: Opinion piece written by Jane O’Dwyer for Innovation Aus here