By Jo Podoliak
Chief Executive Officer
Regional Development Australia Murraylands and Riverland (RDAMR)
Access to high-quality, tertiary education in our region is key to maintaining a vibrant population of young people.
Research shows that 70% of graduates from regional universities go on to work in a regional area, compared to just 20% of all Australian graduates.
The opportunity is there, and it’s ours for the taking.
Just 7% of Murray Bridge’s 17,247 population aged 15 years or older hold a Bachelor or higher equivalent degree, which is less than half the state-wide average of nearly 19%.
More than half (52%) of our rural city’s population have no formal qualification, according to the latest Census data.
Currently one-quarter of Murraylands Food Alliance workers – a collective of the biggest food businesses in the Murraylands producing half our gross regional product – live outside the region. Many of which are highly skilled roles.
This statistic is representative of our entire region and shows we need to grow our own skills.
If we want our future generations to study and work in the Murraylands we must secure a larger regional university footprint and improve access to tertiary education.
A degree or certificate obtained in the Murraylands is more beneficial to sustaining a young population of workers compared to a generalist education from outside the region.
Regional Universities Network executive director Dr Caroline Perkins agrees. Dr Perkins was recently quoted saying “if people want to find jobs in their region, the best way to get one is to actually train for them at a regional university.” Regional education provides jobseekers with skills to meet shortages or demand within a particular locality.
For example, RDA Murraylands and Riverland has run the Jobs 4 Murraylands program since 2016. During this time, 140 jobseekers completed region-specific skills training, with 70% securing paid employment in the region.
The program taught jobseekers skills for the region. It was specifically designed to help fill gaps in the local labour market. Employers needed more staff, so we found jobseekers and equipped them with the skills.
Increasing post-secondary educational uptake in the region is another area of focus for RDA Murraylands and Riverland.
To help realise this, we have collaborated with local government, TAFE SA and high schools in the region to establish a Learning Campus at Murray Bridge TAFE site, with help from a $270,000 grant from the Federal Government Building Better Regions Fund earlier this month.
It’s inspiring to work with partner organisations and members of Parliament who share our vision for a better education landscape for our young people.
This is the start of our journey.
We are working diligently together to submit an application to secure funding as part of the Federal Government’s Regional Study Hubs initiative.
This is the next step in activating further tertiary education options to see this education precinct become a vibrant learning hub for all residents, businesses and providers to access.
Securing funding for a Regional Study Hub would help improve access to tertiary education and help ensure our young people are equipped with the skills to secure these jobs, all while making the region a more appealing place to live.
If you share our vision and would like to support these initiatives, contact RDA Murraylands and Riverland by phone on (08) 8535 7170 or in person at 137 Adelaide Road, Murray Bridge.