NEW SKILLS: USQ Pro Vice-Chancellor (Engagement) Professor John Cole believes the university is well equipped to handle the region's needs.
NEW SKILLS: USQ Pro Vice-Chancellor (Engagement) Professor John Cole believes the university is well equipped to handle the region's needs. Cordell Richardson

Keeping youngsters key to city's success

IPSWICH will need to develop a new set of skills in order to re-brand itself from a tradie's paradise and secure its future as a thriving Queensland city for the future.

That is the word from demographer Bernard Salt, who believes we should have double the amount of people trained in professional skills like accountancy or IT by 2030.

This puts the pressure on our educational institutions to deliver more facilities and study options over the next decade to provide that platform.

It will also prove important in keeping our talented young people here so they don't feel like they need to leave the city in order to reach their full potential.

Plumbers, electricians and carpenters will still be in hot demand but diversifying the city's skill base will be key for its future, Mr Salt believes.

Between 2000 and 2018, the professional, scientific and technical services sector in Ipswich had grown by about 5,000 jobs, making it the industry with the eighth highest level of growth in the region.

Across Australia in that same period, professional services was the third highest growth industry and Mr Salt said Ipswich needed to pick up its game.

In 2016, 12.8 per cent of Ipswich people held a bachelor degree or higher, compared to the Queensland rate of 18.3 per cent.

"Ipswich needs to be creating the skills for the jobs of the future," Mr Salt said.

"I think if Ipswich wants to change its destiny and not be viewed as just a tradie place or a working man's place... then we need to be investing further in education.

"I expect the economy is shifting more and more towards knowledge work. You could argue Ipswich might be being left behind because it's not producing the professional services still in the labour market that other areas are."

This will come as a result of more tertiary and vocational facilities and Mr Salt said there was plenty of room for University of Queensland, Queensland University of Technology and Griffith University to establish representation in the region and for the University of Southern Queensland to expand.

"The people who manage educational infrastructure should be looking at this region in 2030 and working out what they will need by that stage, compared with what they have at the moment and set about a program to actually deliver on the gap," he said.

"The skill base of this region needs to be more focused on professional skills and that comes down to universities.

"I want to see university places and you know what, I want to see a vice chancellor head-quartered there or whole faculties head-quartered there, not just little branch offices.

"I want to see the intellectual muscle of the university in my municipality."

A rapidly growing population will mean plenty of work for those with a trade to work on houses, roads and new projects in the coming years.

"Not every kid wants to do a university degree or should be doing a university degree," Mr Salt said.

"There are practical, pragmatic skills that this region will require. So it's the entire suite of educational infrastructure that should be re-imagined."

USQ Pro Vice-Chancellor (Engagement) Professor John Cole believes the campuses in Ipswich and Springfield are well equipped to set people up with the required jobs of the future.

He said there was no reason why the university could not be leaders in not just "cornerstone vocations" like nursing and teaching, but cutting edge study in health, aviation, astrophysics and materials engineering.

"There's nothing to stop us doing it here in Ipswich," he said.

"We've got the facilities, we're close to everything and we're well located. There's no impediment to further growth here.

"We are tailoring our work to very much be a 21st century university. We see ourselves being able to build a platform that addresses those different needs."

Study in education is the biggest driver at the Springfield campus and Ipswich has become a hub for health.

But Prof Cole said exciting research into the emerging fields of the future in science and technology will soon come to the fore.

"At the moment our top fields of study are education, management, business, engineering and the humanities," he said.

"Our expectation is the health area would certainly grow more. Keeping up with what's happening in science and technology is going to be important too."

Labor has committed $3.75 to USQ if Bill Shorten is elected, with the Ipswich campus set to receive $750,000 towards it Health and Wellbeing Centre and about $1 million will be spent on enhanced health-related programs through a Biomedical Laboratory.

Ipswich and Toowoomba campuses will both benefit from $2 million towards Clinical Simulation Laboratories as well.

"With the release of the (Excellence in Research for Australia figures), health is one of our areas where we are very much above world class," Prof Cole said.

"I can see us needing in time more investment in things like materials engineering.

"To that degree USQ will be looking to partner with and engage more with the material industries that are related to defence. One of the cornerstone industries (in Ipswich) is defence and we can see ourselves working more and more in that space.

"It should mean more money in research facilities too. Our vision would be for Ipswich to be home to world class leading research and that's something that can come through the university as we build here and have some real specialities here."

Prof Cole said the university's brass was in the process of developing a master plan for the future.

"We don't have a figure at the moment (the university would need committed for new facilities)... that's a work in progress," he said.

"Certainly the aim will be to have a plan and have a strategy going forward that does involve a staged investment that takes account of the needs as we see them emerge but acting quickly enough not to get behind the times."

He believed USQ's Ipswich and Springfield campuses had the capability to keep up with demand for professional skills and push Ipswich into the future.

"We see ourselves very much as being a crucial citizen and crucial platform with great capacity to contribute to the social and development of the Ipswich region going forward," he said.

"We're certainly here to stay and to grow with the region."



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