Prime Minister Scott Morrison and four of his key ministers recently announced the federal government's population policy — and regional Australia was front and centre.
As an independent and bipartisan think-tank, the Regional Australia Institute welcomed the core elements of the policy which includes more visas for migrants wanting to move to regional areas and fast-rail commitments across the country.
Fast-rail will open up opportunities for regional living and we know investing in people will help fill jobs across the country. But we also need to make sure that towns aren't just "end-to-end" communities.
Focus also needs to be placed on improving the liveability of the communities at the other end of the line, so when people move there, they want to stay.
Regional migration is an issue the RAI has been working on since 2016, to stem population decline and meet jobs demands in regional areas. Increasing regional visas to 23,000 will make it easier for migrants to move to our areas — a change we know many communities have been asking for.
We also know employers are trying to fill more than 40,000 jobs across regional Australia. These jobs are a mix of high-skill and low-skill jobs — with everything from labouring through to sales, trades and professionals.
This is just one of the reasons the RAI is focused on researching what is happening with regional jobs. We are looking at what trends are emerging and the impact automation will have on current jobs — right down to every individual local government area.
Our research has told us that many entry level jobs such as sales and hospitality will change with technology. Some may be lost altogether, others will be modified. These are the roles many of our younger workers in regional towns take up when they first enter the workforce.
As we move forward, the jobs that will develop are those that are high-tech, high-touch and high-care.
Last week, we launched our Healthy Check Up to the media and government. It shows the health and social assistance sector is the fastest growing industry in Australia, and over the next five years regional Australia will create more than 85,000 new jobs.
So, what does this mean for regional towns and job seekers? For the Central West of NSW, which takes in Bathurst, Forbes, Cowra, Orange, Lithgow, Condobolin, West Wyalong and Mudgee — jobs in this sector are projected to rise by 27.6 per cent to 21,300 by May 2023. This will mean 4600 additional jobs for this industry alone.
Regional jobs are changing. We are on the cusp of a regional jobs revolution and education will play a critical role to ensure regional communities can take up the opportunities available.
Nearly 70 per cent of undergraduate students who attend regional universities end up working in regional areas. This is in stark contrast to just 23 per cent for metropolitan areas.
This week, the RAI will officially launch its national roadshow, Regions Rising 2019. We believe this event series will be the first of its type for regional Australia.
It's not a talk-fest, but a real vehicle for change that allows regional leaders to meet with key decision makers who help determine our future. Regional leaders from every state and territory will be coming, as well as leading economists, academics, industry leaders, commentators and government representatives.
Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack will deliver the keynote speech and will launch our latest body of work — The Future of Regional Jobs.
This paper takes a deep dive into the implications of change and growth in regional jobs and we hope it gives community leaders and government a pathway forward for meeting the demands of the future.
Our Regions Rising National Summit in Canberra will put the spotlight on regional Australia. If you are attending, we look forward to your input. If you can't make it this time, please check out our website www.regionalaustralia.org.au for all the latest news.
Regional Australia is changing and we want to make sure communities can capitalise on the opportunities in front of us.
Liz Ritchie is co-chief executive of the Regional Australia Institute.
We are on the cusp of a regional jobs revolution and education will play a critical role to ensure regional communities can take up the opportunities available.