CONCERNS about the perceived decline in Australia's skills and knowledge sets in the areas of science, technology, engineering and mathematics - referred to by educators as STEM - has prompted the national Chief Scientist, Professor Ian Chubb, to take action.

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Ian Chubb (centre) wants Australia to embrace greater knowledge in science technology, engineering and mathematics.

 

The concerns about Australia's shift away from STEM expertise have recently been heightened by declining secondary and tertiary enrolments in areas such as higher level mathematics, which forms the foundation for these areas.

Australian business has for some time imported staff in certain sectors in which local STEM skills sets have been increasingly difficult to find - and this has manifested as a quiet sector of the 457 Work Visa debate in recent years.

Prof. Chubb has appointed a group to advise on strategies and priorities regarding science, technology, engineering and mathematics education, skills in the workplace and literacy for the community.

Interestingly, a head engineer from Google, an astrophysicist, a secondary school science teacher and a university chancellor are included in a diverse mix of advisers who will present a range of perspectives from academia, education, industry and research.

The STEM Industry and Education Advisory Group, appointed for a three-year term will advise the Chief Scientist on the mechanisms to develop a strong STEM base in the workforce as well as across the Australian community.

A major focus of the STEM Industry and Education Advisory Group will be to assist the Chief Scientist to enhance awareness in the community of the importance of STEM education and skills to Australia's economic and social development.

Members are:

Chair: Professor Ian Chubb AC - Australia's Chief Scientist.

Dr Alan Finkel AM - Monash University Chancellor, Australian Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering president, and Stile Education CEO.

Dr Terry Lyons - University of New England Science Education.

Dr Brendan Nelson - Australian War Memorial director and former Federal Minister.

Alan Noble - Google Australia and New Zealand head engineer.

Dr Roslyn Prinsley - Office of the Chief Scientist, Science and Mathematics Industry and Education national adviser.

Robert Randall - Assessment and Reporting Authority, Australian Curriculum CEO.

Dr Deborah Rathjen - Bionomics CEO and managing director.

Prof. Brian Schmidt AC - Australian Research Council Laureate Fellow and astrophysicist, Mount Stromlo Observatory and Research School of Astronomy and Astrophysics, ANU College of Physical and Mathematical Sciences, The Australian National University.

Anita Trenwith - Science teacher, Salisbury School, Adelaide, winner of 2012 Prime Minister's Prize for Excellence in Science Teaching in Secondary Schools.

http://www.chiefscientist.gov.au/

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Australia has welcomed the new financial year with a 15 percent drop in executive positions, according to the latest EL Executive Demand Index.

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Finance and IT executive roles saw worst decline.

 

According to the index, a conjunction between rising inflation and falling economic growth is choking off the number of Australian executive jobs on offer. Plus, the new corporate conservatism is likely to continue for some time.

The E.L Executive Demand Index fell 15 percent in the month of July compared with the prior month as a number of poor economic growth indicators coincided with the release of inflation figures above the Reserve Bank of Australia's favoured 2-3 percent band range.

Grant Montgomery, managing director of the executive search firm E.L Consult which researches and publishes the E.L Index, said, "Consequently, it is obvious the Reserve Bank had no choice but to leave official rates on hold again this month.  The inflation created by the resource sector is not affected and will not change with local interest rates.  Any rise will only impact the local non-resource sector which is already on its knees.

"We are in a stagflationary environment of sorts, where both inflation is rising and growth is falling. The RBA is stuck in the middle, having to slow the resource rich economy which is feeding demand-pull inflation, while not choking off the anaemic growth profile of the larger states such as New South Wales and Victoria and their non-resource sector industries.

"Nobody wants to say it, it is the worst possible of all economic scenarios,  stagflation, which looks increasingly likely, particularly given the continuing rise of the Australian dollar and the still sickly growth in the US and Europe," Mr Montgomery said.

"The June upturn last month now seems to have been a seasonal anomaly and this month's fall has pretty much averaged out the last two months into the now typical decline in new executive level positions.  

"As we said last month when the E.L Index rose 11 percent, the spending on executive positions in the final month of the financial year clearly showed the conservatism of the market.

"Corporate players have waited until the last possible month to spend their budget rather than spreading it throughout the year because the enormous uncertainty they have on the business environment outlook.

"No wonder that Glenn Stevens, the Reserve Bank governor, spoke recently of a ‘new conservatism' that saw most householders more interested in saving than shopping. He also said there were those in the manufacturing, retail and tourism sectors that where experiencing cost pressures.  He said ,  ‘you've got product prices under downward pressure and costs under upward pressure'.

"The reduction in July at the start of the new financial year would tend to confirm this," Mr Montgomery said.

"The losses in July were virtually across the board. We've seen a significant decrease, mostly in the public sector, probably as the NSW Government attempts to reduce the bureaucracy in that state.

"In some ways we are playing chicken with the local economy. Rates are among the highest in the world, the Australian dollar is at its highest level since being floated in 1983, choking off exports.

"Consumer spending is low, corporate confidence is low. About the only that is keeping up confidence levels is the general gross domestic product numbers and they are covering up significant structural income disparities.

"Overall we are currently at 50 percent of the peak level of executive employment hit before the global financial crisis. Australia outside of the China led mineral boom is highly depressed and doesn't look like changing back any time soon."

All sectors fell during the month. The losses were led by the financial and information technology sectors.
Among the large states, Victoria slumped followed by New South Wales.

As could perhaps be expected, the resource-rich state of Western Australia was the only state to post a positive result, up 7 percent on the prior month.

The government the sector was the largest contributor to new demand as non-resource industries continue to batten down the hatches.

Both print-based and web-based advertising fell sharply against the prior month.

http://www.elconsult.com/

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When La Trobe University launched its first tertiary courses on iTunes this week it was also rewarded with its three millionth podcast downloaded from more than 150 countries.

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University on your iPad? No problem says La Trobe Uni.

 

La Trobe University became the first Australian university to launch courses on iTunes U this week.

Since its launch in October 2009, La Trobe University on iTunes U has established itself as an important member of the iTunes U community, with more than 600 podcasts and videos covering the spread of the University's wealth of knowledge.

La Trobe is the first Australian university on iTunes to release iTunes U courses, a new delivery method from Apple Corporation which allows a worldwide audience to access freely available course teaching material at the same time as students, regardless of location or enrolment.

Two courses History of Children's Literature and The European Union in the New Millennium are now available, with more to follow as the semester progresses.

La Trobe lecturer Stefan Auer, who teaches on the European Union, said he was excited by the prospect of a huge worldwide audience for his teaching.

"This is a very exciting time to study contemporary European politics and I am thrilled about this new platform, which we can use to reach students well beyond our campus," Dr Auer said. "The EU is global, and so is our subject"

Since 2009 La Trobe University has been providing a wide range of free material including lectures, interviews, and videos, reaching thousands of new listeners and potential students on a daily basis. 

Notable interviews include former Prime Minister of Australia Malcolm Fraser, Nobel Prize winner in medicine Professor Harald zur Hausen, human rights and refugee advocate Julian Burnside, former Australian of the Year Prof. Patrick McGorry, and many respected La Trobe University academics.

"I'm delighted that La Trobe University continues to be at the forefront of developments in online digital education," said senior deputy vice-chancellor John Rosenberg.

"iTunes U courses bring all relevant material together to make it simple for anyone who wants to study a subject, however complex or challenging it might be.

"This is an idea that fits perfectly with La Trobe University's founding philosophy to make education available to everyone," he said.

http://itunes.apple.com/au/institution/la-trobe-university/id380435656

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The needs of the current Indigenous labour market have become a number one priority for a number of government departments and organisations, representing the Southern Queensland region.

The goal is to raise the participation of Indigenous Australians in the agri-food industries.

Some eight stakeholders, including Agforce, the Queensland Rural Industry Training Council (QRITC), the Department of Primary Industries and Fisheries (DPI&F), the Department of Education, Training and the Arts, (DETA) the Department of Employment and Industrial Relations, (DEIR) the Australian Government Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations, (DEEWR), WCW Consultancy & Training and the Department of Tourism, Regional Development and Industry (DTRDI) have recently held discussions to identify the needs of Indigenous people in South West Queensland, in respect to their current employment situation.

Indigenous representative for the Steering Committee, Charlie Waters, said the discussions, which were made up of two parts, identifying the labour shortages within industry and skills needed for industry, along with examining the unemployment and participation rate of Indigenous Australians within the region.

“We looked at the participation of Indigenous people within the agri-food sector and agri-businesses and how they can come together with employers from the industry,” Mr Waters said.

“The discussions of the committee were an environment of openness, flexibility and responsiveness with actions formulated in regard to matching the Indigenous community and the industry together.

“Participation of Indigenous people within the agri-food sector isn’t high, and unemployed indigenous people could be a major contributor to the labour shortages issue affecting the agri-foods industries,” Mr Waters said.

“In 2009, the Community Development Employment Programs (CDEP) will be disbanded across some of the major communities of the South West, which will result in a large number of Indigenous people seeking further employment.

“We all know that it is may times the most disadvantaged that are affected during times of economic crisis. It is important that at times like these that we build up a good reliable service along with the agri-food sector to capture this human resource and ensure that the industry and the Aboriginal community create a buffer against the crisis” he said.

“There are already a couple of Indigenous employment businesses operating and we hope we can provide and gain further support from government and industry to support these programs. These employment operations could be implemented across the whole sector.”

The result of the discussion – the Scoping Analysis – which was facilitated by Queensland Rural Industry Training Council, and undertaken by consultants Peter and Rochelle Jesser identified that:

1. Agriculture is a historical employer of choice for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in the South Western region;

2. That rural areas present the most difficulties to policy makers in tackling the issue of Aboriginal inequality in economic participation;

3. The current economic situation of Aboriginal people is closely related to economic changes in the rural economy.

The Scoping Analysis report will be launched at All Seasons Function Centre, Toowoomba on February 12.

Contact Yvon Wigley on 1800623946 or e-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it

Contact Charlie Waters on 0429976860 or e-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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ENGINEERING group Bechtel Australia has received high praise from industry support body Construction Skills Queensland (CSQ), for the innovative training program Bechtel implemented during the construction phase of the Curtis Island LNG plant project.

Bechtel Australia won the Employer of the Year Award at the 2013 Queensland Training Awards.

Bechtel invested more than $2.3 million in training on the liquefied natural gas (LNG) project between July 2011 and February 2013, providing opportunities for more than 350 workers to participate in accredited training each month.

CSQ CEO Brett Schimming said Bechtel will also have one of the largest intakes of apprentices in Australian history through its adult apprenticeship program.

Mr Schimming said a construction employer winning the award illustrated the strong training culture that existed across the state in the building and construction industry.

“Bechtel are a great example of construction employers in Queensland committed to maximising the training outcomes of major projects for the wider community,” Mr Schimming said.

“In addition to offering on the job training to the apprentices, the company has helped a further 350 workers each month to develop new skills and progress their careers,” he said.

“We congratulate the Bechtel team on their hard work and dedication to training which will help to ensure a lasting legacy of skills for the Gladstone construction industry.”

During the project, CSQ has provided funding towards two ‘apprentice coordinators’ dedicated to apprentice and trainee management and mentoring.

“The coordinators played a key role in ensuring Bechtel has a framework in place to support the needs of their apprentices,” Mr Schimming said.

At an early stage, Bechtel identified challenges in recruiting the large number of steel fixers required by the project. With funding support from CSQ, the company developed a purpose built program to train existing workers on the project in steel fixing.

Mr Schimming said industry upskilling was a key focus for CSQ.

“Resource related infrastructure projects continue to face significant skills challenges that can only be met by harnessing the capacity of our existing workers,” he said.

“While many of the skills from residential and commercial construction are transferable, some training may be necessary to make the transition into the engineering construction sector of the industry.

“With funding support of civil construction training programs and industry short courses, we are providing opportunities for workers to upskill and gain the right skills mix to take advantage of work prospects on major projects.

“Across Queensland we are working to ensure we have a construction workforce capable of meeting the skills demands of the future,” Mr Schimming said.

CSQ recently outlined a $52.5 million investment in skills development over the next 12 months for the state’s building and construction industry.

CSQ has published details of its Annual Training Plan investment on its website.

 www.csq.org.au 

The new Construction Skills Queensland (CSQ) online Jobs Board aims to assist career seekers and employers in the Queensland building and construction industry as part of its drive to meet the needs of the fast-developing coal seam gas and support industries.

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Construction Skills Qld's new Jobs Board is helping to gear up for the CSG/LNG construction boom.

 

The Jobs Board will fast track new entrants into the building and construction industry and provide employers with a vital tool to source additional staff.  Initiatives such as the Jobs Board are becoming increasingly important, a CSQ spokesman said, given the workforce demands posed by the emerging coal seam gas to liquefied natural gas (CSG/LNG) industry.

Jobs Board is available free of charge to building and construction industry employers, allowing them to post job vacancies directly to the CSQ website. While job seekers will able to search job opportunities by trade, qualification and region to pinpoint their preferred role.

Construction Skills Queensland CEO Brett Schimming said the Jobs Board will help the building and construction industry quickly find staff and further develop a skilled workforce.

"Last December CSQ released a Workforce Plan for the construction phase of the CSG/LNG industry which predicted that, based on four LNG trains, over 9000 workers would be required to construct planned projects," Mr Schimming said.

 "The Jobs Board is an initiative of CSQ's Workforce Planning Program to help industry meet this skills demand."

The Jobs Board is part of a new CSQ website which provides a central hub for Queensland's construction industry to find news and information about training, upskilling and funding.

The new website will help keep people informed of key developments in the CSG/LNG industry and other areas of construction, providing the latest industry news and a list of upcoming industry events.

In addition, research and insights are available on the new website, including CSQ's industry dashboard which highlights key training and employment trends in the industry, assisting employers with workforce planning.

www.csq.org.au

To explore the Jobs Board and other features of CSQ's new website visit www.csq.org.au or contact the CSQ team for more information on 1800 798 488.

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CONSTRUCTION Skills Queensland (CSQ) has released its 2013-2014 Annual Training Plan, outlining more than $52 million to be invested into skills development as the construction industry enters a period of unprecedented change.

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Brett Schimming, Construction Skills Queensland CEO.

 

As the construction industry's peak body in the state, CSQ will invest more than $52.5 million in training and skilling initiatives to assist Queensland's building and construction career seekers, apprentices, workers and employers over the next year.

More than $29.6 million of the funding will be directed to helping workers adapt to changes in the industry and build their skills through a range of short courses, skills assessment and gap training, higher level skills training and civil construction training.

Growth in the resource and construction engineering sector in recent years has seen an influx of workers transitioning from the residential and commercial areas of the industry which have faced softer conditions.

CSQ CEO Brett Schimming said while there is an evident increase occurring in resource and construction engineering, the residential and commercial construction sectors are also beginning to show signs of growth. 

"Total industry employment has grown by 3.1 percent, or 7,000 persons, year on year to May 2013," Mr Schimming said.

"The Annual Training Plan aims to help industry meet work requirements now and into the future.

"Resource related infrastructure projects continue to face significant skills challenges that can only be met by harnessing the capacity of our existing workers," Mr Schimming said.

"While many of the skills from residential and commercial construction are transferable, training may be necessary to make the transition into the engineering construction sector of the industry.

"Through the Annual Training Plan we are providing opportunities for workers to upskill and gain the right mix of skills to take advantage of work prospects on major projects.

"It's important to note however that over the next decade, it is population growth that is expected to fuel growth in the industry rather than resource projects. This should see activity in residential and commercial construction rise again," he said.

As growth returns to these areas, Mr Schimming said the industry would encounter a different range of challenges to those faced during the last residential and commercial construction boom.

"Our research has shown that the way we build is evolving and green and sustainable environments are as much about waste management as they are about environmental practice. Materials are also changing, as are the methods of construction themselves.

"Not only are components increasingly produced off site, but entire houses are being prefabricated to support the booming needs of mining and energy project workforce housing.

"New technology is being used to support these practices, and everywhere businesses are looking to build smarter and reduce waste.

"The Annual Training Plan is addressing these changes in the industry, offering a number of short courses to help workers comply with new safety and licensing requirements and adapt to cutting edge building practices," he said.

Mr Schimming said to meet these emerging skills demands, apprentices and workers must not be lost to other industries.

"It is vital that we have a skilled workforce in place to meet the demands of future growth in the residential and commercial construction industry," Mr Schimming said.

"The Annual Training Plan will see CSQ invest more than $11.6 million in initiatives to help employers retain their workforce.

"We will also invest more than $6 million in initiatives to continue to help attract new workers to the industry," he said.

www.csq.org.au

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