Focusing on nation building
I visited Adelaide last month to catch up with the other committees for cities.
This is always a fascinating forum: to see what issues and projects consume other regions in Australia and New Zealand and compare approaches.
The Committee for Canterbury (Christchurchbased) is still focused on the substantial replan and rebuild of the city after the 2010 and 2011 earthquakes.
Sydney is working through a three-city centres plan which is critical to the future operation of the city.
Think about Sydney — there is nowhere for the city to grow to the east (Pacific Ocean) and the expansion to the west is limited (Blue Mountains).
Rather than have everyone live in the west and travel to Sydney city, they are building CBD areas in Paramatta and Penrith.
Gippsland is working through post-Hazelwood closure, and Geelong on the concept of second-tier cities.
One of the most interesting part of Adelaide’s economy is the naval ship building industry, based in Osborne, in the northern suburbs.
Current projects, such as maintenance of the Collins class submarine, are undertaken at the Australian Submarine Corporation facility there, but the industry is gearing up for some major operations into the future.
The new Australian submarine project, where the French company DCNS will build 12 new submarines, is being negotiated and the Hunter Class Frigate Program is due to start in 2020.
The potential roadblock for this economic activity is skills, so the Australian Government has set up the Naval Shipbuilding College.
The pipeline of skills required, from engineers to electricians to specialist welders (submarine welding can be bit more hightech than cattle yards), is being mapped, and schools are being engaged to find and develop students who may have an aptitude and interest in skills required.
North Adelaide has been an economically depressed area for a number of years, and it stands to reason that it is better (though more challenging) to develop our young people who rely totally on skilled migration.
With the large infrastructure projects happening in Greater Shepparton over the next 10 years, I see the Adelaide ship building model of work pathways as having relevance to us.
We have significant projects building hospitals, rail lines and roads, to name just a few.
Add to that the staffing of the hospital, aged care and other allied health, and there are several opportunities that will require STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) soft/ people skills and critical thinking to problem solve in these new industries.
The GROW project (Greater Regional Opportunities for Work) that the Committee for Greater Shepparton is running over the next three years will aim to help develop this pipeline and move our young people into employment pathways.
There are already some great initiatives under way here to build on.
The common factor after meeting with the other cities and regions’ representatives is that though the issues are different, we are all contributing to nation building.
The education and capability of the next generation will dictate how well we do this. ● Sam Birrell is the Committee for Greater Shepparton’s chief executive.