Uni fees fuelling shortage of skills
October 30, 2006
AUSTRALIA is facing endemic shortages of doctors, accountants and engineers to take the place of retiring baby boomers, leaving Canberra increasingly reliant on immigration to make up the numbers.
A report to be released today challenges the Howard Government's rhetoric on encouraging students into trades instead of university, and blames the rising cost of tertiary education for placing an effective cap on the number of Australian students on campus.
“There's been a decade of neglect of higher education on the part of the Coalition, and this is now showing up in serious shortages in the output of graduates from the higher education system,” said one of the report's authors, Bob Birrell of Monash University.
“All the growth in higher education training over the past decade has been with overseas students. The Government has made going to university more difficult for domestic students by tightening up on access to student financial assistance and by increasing the cost of fees.”
The report, Clearing the Myths Away: Higher Education's Place in meeting Workforce Demands, says that despite an expected surge in the nation's 15-to-19-year-old age group over the coming decades, not enough young people will have the qualifications to fill the skilled positions left by retiring baby boomers.
“We are going to lose a lot of skilled people as these baby boomers retire, so it's all the more urgent we pay attention to the reserve of young people we've already got there,” Dr Birrell said.
“Half the young people at the moment are not in post-school education — they're either working full-time or not doing anything much.”
Most vulnerable were the health, engineering and accounting sectors, which were already suffering severe shortages of skilled staff.
“It's highly likely that in the absence of a major increase in domestic higher education training, these shortages will become endemic,” says the report from Monash University's Centre for Population and Urban Research.