By David Learmonth, Deputy Secretary, Department of Education and Training
Across the world, education, training and research are what I call the transformative triumvirate. They have the power to transform the lives of individuals and to positively change societies and economies.
Our education, training and research institutions, with their reputation of achievement in teaching, inquiry and endeavour, have a particular role to play in our region. Their considered thought and their networks have the ability to help us inform our interactions and how we shape our environment – domestically and internationally.
These three interlinked sectors contribute to global stability and security; the rationale behind the Department of Education and Training’s close involvement in the development of the forthcoming Foreign Policy White Paper.
In an increasingly interconnected world, education is the key to equipping young people with skills, attributes, values and behaviours that will help them to prosper. The World Economic Forum’s Future of Jobs report tells us that 65 per cent of children entering primary school today will ultimately end up in jobs that don’t yet exist. In the workforce, effective communication, teamwork and relationship building across languages and borders will not only be increasingly important, they’ll be essential.
So, in partnership with the education, training and research sectors, the Department of Education and Training works to make sure our policies look to the future. We want to ensure our students are in an education environment that provides them with relevant support, skills and attributes–such as the resilience needed to meet the challenges of constant workforce change.
These policies encompass Australian students and our international students. Fostering collaboration between education, training and research institutions across our region–and further afield–has been a growing focus for the education sector. The Government plays a strong role in supporting this and our efforts are paying off. The international education sector supports more than 130,000 jobs in Australia and contributed $28 billion to the Australian economy in 2016-17. At August 2017, 577,353 international students were studying in Australia. Over the last ten years, more than 26,000 Australian students and 83,000 international students have had their educational development supported by the Government’s Australia Awards Endeavour Scholarships and Mobility Grants, building the ground work for cooperative partnerships into the future.
Australia has huge cultural diversity and this, coupled with our significant international student cohort, brings us unique cultural literacy and language skills. Education and training opportunities build understanding, increase mobility and interpersonal and collaborative relationships. It’s a solid foundation from which business and industry can sustain and enhance existing market and trade opportunities and, through doing so, foster greater international economic cooperation. While so much about the future is unknown and often unpredictable, education, training and research will continue to be the fundamental basis for maximising Australia’s potential.
David Learmonth is the Deputy Secretary, Higher Education, Research and International, at the Department of Education and Training. David previously worked for the Department of Human Services (DHS) where he was responsible for ensuring the delivery of effective and efficient welfare-related payment programmes, such as age pension, child care benefits, rural and multicultural, child support, and family payments.
Prior to joining DHS in 2015, David held the role of Deputy Secretary of the Department of Health from 2006, where he was responsible for medical benefits, pharmaceutical benefits, private health insurance, Indigenous health and sport. He was also Head, Industry Division of the Defence Materiel Organisation where he was responsible for international cooperation, export and industry policy. His career has also included positions in aged care and Veterans’ Affairs.