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New SA Premier to STEM skills shortage

Estimates by South Australia?s Training and Skills Commission claim that between 2008 and 2015 there?ll be more than 21,000 job openings for over 3,000 engineers, 1,800 ICT professionals and more than 700 natural scientists, including food and environmental scientists. There?s also projected to be be employment growth in trades, with forecast job openings for over 3,300 steel and metal workers, and 2,600 electricians and electrical workers. At present, the state isn?t in a position to fill the vacancies.

?Forecasts show that demand for engineers, environmental scientists, ICT systems analysts and allied tradespeople such as electricians, toolmakers, and structural steel and welding trades workers is set to increase dramatically over next 10 years,? said Weatherill, who is currently the science and information economy minister, but is set to become the new premier on October 20 when Mike Rann steps down. ?We must attract more people into studies in these fields at school, university and vocational training if we are to meet these demands.?

Weatherill?s announcement, entitled the STEM Skills Strategy (STEM standing for science, technology engineering and mining, of course), puts in place a strategy for meeting the shortages. An executive reference group, chaired by Raymond Spencer, chair of the economic development board, will be established, as will a task force. Fifty-five programs across the state will be integrated into the scheme, which hopes to ?engage with educators and training organisations.?

?The South Australia we want to see in 20 years time will be shaped by the decisions we make today,? said Weatherill.

Not all parties, however, are happy with the incoming Premier?s announcement, with opposition education spokesman David Pisoni claiming the STEM Scheme is all talk.

?Today?s announcement is simply more rhetoric from a disengaged Labor Government that is more interested in its own disunity problems than real issues affecting South Australia,? said Pisoni. ?Labor needs to stop making decisions in-house and start forming partnership with the community and industry.?

Pisoni wasn?t alone in calls for greater ties between educators, government and industry, with Engineers Australia executive director Caroline Argent telling Adelaide Now it wasn?t up to the government to tackle the issue alone.

“The government needs to form effective partnerships to support and facilitate the work done by community and professional groups,” she said. “Engineers Australia commits to working with government to enhance STEM education throughout SA.”

SOURCE: Government of South Australia; Opposition spokesperson David Pisoni; Adelaide Now

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