If you ask South Australians to name our state’s largest industry sectors and the sectors that will drive our future prosperity, then you’re likely to hear responses such as mining, defence, agriculture, and maybe even space, but not international education. This must change.
South Australia has a once-in-a-generation opportunity to seize the opportunity in front of us right now for international education to help transform the State. We cannot afford to let it slide.
Pre-COVID, international education was our largest export and is likely to return to being number one again soon, but this time we must maximise the wider benefits for our State and harness this growth to create a more skilled, prosperous, and globally connected South Australia.
This will require all parts of our community, but particularly our business community, to become more actively involved and engaged in the international education sector. A ‘sit back and wait’ passive approach to international education puts the future prosperity of the State and the growth of many South Australian businesses at risk.
There’s not a conversation about building the prosperity and opportunities for our State that shouldn’t make mention of international education, whether we’re talking about economic growth, population growth, investment attraction, skills development, workforce capacity, research and innovation, export growth or major events.
South Australia desperately needs the right skills – International graduates have the skills needed in South Australia and their most popular fields of study align directly with our skills shortages. We have thousands of international students graduating every year who are sold on our state, having made Adelaide their home, and have the right to work here for several years. We just need to think differently about creating opportunities for them and work harder, together, to keep them in South Australia.
SA needs to grow its working age population: As a state with an ageing population profile, retaining international students after they graduate will be critical for industry to have access to highly skilled labour force of working age.
South Australia needs to bring back more international visitors - more international students equals more international visitors. Visitation linked to international education including visits from the friends and families of international students has historically represented over 47% of the state’s international visitor tourism spend.
Adelaide’s CBD needs a further boost - our city has been hit hard over the past two years but is coming back to life, albeit with a changed dynamic. With people continuing to work from home, international students add significantly to the vibrancy, retail and hospitality spend and workforce of our city.
South Australia needs more community volunteers - volunteering in South Australia has been hit hard by COVID. Almost 40% of international students volunteer in our community, so growing our student numbers grows our volunteers.
International education is the solution to all the key areas I’ve highlighted, but there are many more. Global networks, trade and investment attraction, and further development and construction activity across the state, will all benefit from a successful international education sector.
The question is what role will you play in its success?
Sean Keenihan, Chair, StudyAdelaide.