The Australian Electrical and Electronic Manufacturers' Association (AEEMA) today called on both sides of politics to develop a comprehensive national strategy to address current skills shortages in the high technology industry.
The industry group, which represents the electronics, information and communication technologies (ICT) and electrical manufacturing industries in Australia, said the strategy should reverse the decline in student enrolments and expand the pool of available workers in the sector.
AEEMA CEO, Angus M Robinson, said investment in skilled human infrastructure is vital to ensure Australia has people with the right skills to underpin technology assisted productivity growth into the future.
"Australia allocates considerable public sector resources to predicting, analysing and planning for roads, schools, hospitals and other essential infrastructure, but we do not give sufficient attention to predicting and building our equally essential skills capability," Robinson said.
"We need a national strategy which encourages companies and governments to devote greater effort and investment in skills fore-sighting, training and upgrading the skills of their people.
"We must also find ways to encourage a culture of continuous learning where employees want to keep their skills current."
In countries such as South Korea and Japan, a culture of continuous learning has played a key role in boosting both countries' economic standing on the world stage.
Robinson said skills development positively affects a country's ability to absorb and adapt new technologies, which in turn, enhances economic growth.
He said the high technology industries are enabling productivity growth and social advancement across countless sectors of Australia's economy.
"It is vital that we continue to nurture these industries to guarantee Australia's prosperity well into the future," Robinson added.
AEEMA believes the next Australian Government must have a strategy which includes:
• robust data to enable skills capability mapping to understand current and predict future skills needs; • increase the number of technology based vocational programs in schools to increase students' interest and capability in understanding, using, applying and designing technology applicable to the workplace of today and tomorrow; • provide primary students with opportunities to be mentored by professional engineers and scientists; • co-ordinate government, community and professional organisations to provide experiencebased mentor resources for teachers; • increase support for university and VET students in engineering and technology disciplines to improve retention rates; • address workplace culture, remuneration and working conditions to encourage retention of technology professionals; • develop programs to facilitate skills upgrading in technical professionals; and • encourage technology and engineering professionals to engage in the education system.
Robinson believes predicting and meeting essential skills capability needs of the future should be a key function of government.
"Regardless of which political party wins the next election, skills development should be acknowledged as an essential economic imperative," he said.