Addressing Australia’s long-term skill shortages is vital to ensuring Australia’s economic growth and international competitiveness. Australia’s universities directly support the development of a skilled workforce and productive economy. In 2011, more than 1.2 million students were enrolled in university courses. University graduates are vital contributors to our businesses, economy and society, including in building and diversifying our national productive capacity and productivity, and our global competitiveness. Yet even with the substantial growth in higher education enrolments over the past decade, the Australian Workforce and Productivity Agency (AWPA) recommended to government that to meet the skills needs of industry the number of qualification completions will need to continue growth of least 3 per cent per annum, with total real spending on tertiary education increasing in line with real GDP growth. The AWPA also warned that by 2025, according to modelling developed for their report Future focus: 2013 National Workforce Development Strategy, Australia could be 2.8 million short of the number of higher-skilled qualifications that industry will demand.
The CEO of the Business Council of Australia, Jennifer Westacott, also highlighted the critical importance of both industry and the university sector to our future growth prospects in her speech at the Universities Australia Conference on 28 February 2013.