BOLSTERING OUR WORKFORCE WITH EMPLOYMENT DIRECT FROM OUR TWO LEADING AND LOCAL UNIVERSITIES IS ESSENTIAL TO THE HEALTH OF OUR ECONOMY, BUT HOW DO WE KEEP OUR GRADUATES HERE? WE DISCUSS THE BENEFITS OF KEEPING OUR GRADUATING POOL LOCAL, AND HOW TO DO IT.
Over recent times, and certainly with generational shifts and the advent of technology, there has been a noticeable migration of a skilled and educated workforce from regional and coastal areas to metropolitan areas of Australia. Attracting and retaining professionals to regional areas is seen as a great challenge that affects both professional industries and specific regions like Cairns. For many, the advantages of working in metropolitan areas is perceived as outweighing those afforded to professionals in more regional centres, so how can local businesses and organisations retain these professionals to aid the vital economic growth of the region?
As the end of the academic year looms closer, university graduates are most likely considering next steps into the workforce. But not all degrees and universities are equal when it comes to graduate outcomes, with the highest full-time employment rates of 97.2
per cent and 94.9 per cent being experienced by pharmacy and medicine undergraduates respectively, according to a 2018 survey by the Australian Department of Education and Training. While the university with the highest full-time employment rates for undergraduates immediately after finishing their degrees is Charles Sturt University (Brisbane), with an employment rate of 87.5 per cent, Far North Queensland is very fortunate to have two leading universities in the region that consistently rank on the high-employability scale.
From James Cook University, 79.9 per cent of 2018 graduates
have all gained full time employment, with almost a quarter of graduates remaining in the Cairns region (source: JCULinkedIn).
In the recently released Good Universities Guide, JCU was awarded 5 out of 5 stars for graduate employment, ranking
it number one in Queensland in this category. Central Queensland University follows very closely with 76.4 per
cent of graduates gaining full time employment directly after
studies. These are great numbers for a growing regional centre.
When the employment fields are looked at a little more intently,
we can see that employment of graduates in the Cairns and Far North region is beneficial to both graduate and employer, and in part is thanks to local businesses connecting with universities through integrated workplace programs.
“Work integrated learning at Australian universities is a win-win for students and employers, and certainly a program we encourage at CQU,” says Malcom Johnson, Senior Lecturer of Management and Innovation in the School of Business and Law at Central Queensland University. “High-quality internships and work placements give university students crucial workplace skills to help them land their first job after graduation. It is essential that students are exposed to how contemporary workplaces operate so they can hit the ground running from day one of the job.
“These programs also give employers the opportunity to see the skills and abilities our graduates can bring to a workplace. In a competitive job market, businesses should be taking advantage of this opportunity. When we look towards the Cairns region adapting and keeping our graduates here, it comes down to the people within the businesses and industries that drive and support these programs. The family enterprise, such as small businesses and farming, has played a big role in the economy of the region, but so has health, tourism and finance. The graduates are our future, they bring resilience to the economy. The new breed of graduates bring fresh eyes, a fresh perspective and new networks whilst respecting what has been built before.”
David Craig, Director of James Cook University (Cairns Campus) says “There are many benefits for business in recruiting graduates. Firstly, graduates offer new perspectives. Graduates have developed learning habits during their study and as they emerge fresh from university they are keen to apply what they have learned. They will not only bring problem solving skills and use of technology but also a willingness to learn and develop their skills in the workplace.
“Secondly is work readiness. Graduates from JCU have developed skills and been exposed to experiences that position them perfectly for the workforce. Student placements, projects and fieldwork give our students authentic, valuable practical experience; they are your link between learning and work. You will expand your networks
and gain transferable skills that are valued locally and globally.
“Finally, and possibly most importantly for our community, is long term sustainability. Graduates are the workforce of the future and it is important for business to be injecting new ways of thinking into their organisations. Workers are now, and will increasingly, be spending more time solving problems, utilising critical thinking and judgement skills, using more mathematics and science skills,
and more time using verbal communication and interpersonal skills. They will need to develop an entrepreneurial mindset and spend more time learning on the job. There will be less time spent on routine tasks, and a lot more working with other people to gain value from technology. At JCU we believe these are important attributes for all our graduates.
As our economy grows and changes, strong partnerships between industry, community organisations and universities will continue to evolve and expand student and graduate workplace experiences to deliver the skilled workforce our economy needs.