Universities Accord vital step toward future STEM workforce

19 July 2023

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The Australian Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering (ATSE) has welcomed measures to increase diversity and inclusion at Australia’s universities, and to increase opportunities for lifelong learning and transferring skills across jobs and careers, presented today as part of the Australian Universities Accord Interim Report. 

ATSE commends the return of full support funding for all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students, and expanding regional Study Hubs, as important steps in creating better pathways for all Australians to access careers powered by STEM.  

ATSE CEO Kylie Walker said that the report’s proposal to develop a higher education skills map is an essential step for building a future STEM skilled workforce. ATSE’s Our STEM skilled future report and submission to the review called for a National Skills Taxonomy to streamline consistent communication about skill needs and job pathways among Australia’s organisations. 

“More than half of all Australian jobs could require a university degree by 2050. By that same year, the number of Commonwealth-supported university students is predicted to double from roughly 900,000 to 1.8 million. A simplified approach to supporting Australians’ skills development, and enabling people to more easily move between jobs, is essential to attracting more students to STEM degrees. 

“ATSE also welcomes the proposal to create a universal learning entitlement that helps all Australians access high-quality tertiary education and makes lifelong learning a reality. 

“We are also pleased to see endorsement for exploring a student-centred, needs-based funding model. This will encourage institutions to proactively seek out the most underrepresented students,” said Kylie Walker. 

Equally important is stability and long-term vision in investing in Australia’s fundamental research capability – a sector in which universities play a crucial role, she said. 

In today’s National Press Club address, Minister Clare spoke about the importance of education as the most powerful economic lever that will give Australia the skills to successfully compete in this century.  

“With Australia’s growing STEM skills shortage, we must do more to support more people to access to STEM tertiary education,” Kylie Walker said. 

“Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples are severely under-represented in STEM. At the university level, one in 200 people in the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population have a STEM qualification – a drastically low level compared to one in 20 in the non-Indigenous population. 

“We have the opportunity to make STEM careers accessible and attainable for more Australians. We must act now to engage and retain the best and brightest STEM minds as they embark on their career journeys,” she said. 

ATSE welcomes the report’s exploration of issues raised by ATSE’s submission, including funding higher education providers to an accurate resourcing standard, creating easier pathways between tertiary education and vocational education, and enhancing diversity and inclusion across the higher education sector.  

ATSE looks forward to the final report and to continued collaboration with the Government in transforming our higher education institutions to be fit for the future. 

Notes to media: 

ATSE CEO Kylie Walker is available for interview.

Media contact: 

Edwyn Shiell – Director, Communications and Outreach | Edwyn.shiell@atse.org.au | 0402 254 968