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Australia: Queensland shifts to “talent acquisition” focus

Study Queensland used its IET Summit to announce a repositioning of the state's strategy towards high-quality students to fill skills needs.
July 1 2019
3 Min Read

Queensland will soon have a repositioned strategy which will see it move away from numbers targets towards talent acquisition and communicating the benefits of international education to the wider community, Study Queensland has announced.

The announcement, made at the third annual International Education and Training Summit in Brisbane, will see the IET Strategy to Advance Queensland 2016-2026 change tack to create flexibility for market changes as well as alleviate potential concerns from the community.

“The right student, to the right region, for the right program, and for the right reason”

“How do we ensure that this is an industry that people across Queensland, even the ‘quiet Australians’, understand is something that all of us benefit from?” said Queensland ministerial champion for international education Kate Jones.

“That’s why our focus has been… to pivot into really understanding that international education is in some ways a talent attraction focus.

“The missing piece… is really providing the talent attraction for Queensland, but also that long term, real skills for the students who come to study.”

Themed Changing the Narrative, the summit focused heavily on community engagement and illustrating the benefits of international education economically and for skills shortages.

“The only time we ever talk about this sector, which has such an amazing contribution to our state, is when things are negative,” said SQ executive director Shannon Willoughby.

“There are so many great things that our sector brings and that is why we’re here to change the narrative in Queensland.”

Willoughby added that Queensland, which currently hosts over 130,000 international students, needed to invest in a responsive strategy that created a sustainable industry and prioritised quality over quantity.

“The future focus of Queensland will be about the quality, value, linkages and satisfaction and duration of students,” she said.

“We are focused on attracting the right student, to the right region, for the right program, and for the right reason.”

In terms of market sustainability, Peter Hoj, vice-chancellor for the University of Queensland, said the revenue made from international education needed to be reinvested into creating new economic opportunities for the state.

“Where we’re failing at the moment is that the last step in the Smart State strategy should be to diversify our economy to realise that we need to create new ways of generating free cash,” he said.

“We are in danger of failing [to implement] the last step to get a smarter economy.”

“The missing piece… is really providing the talent attraction for Queensland”

Speaking at the vice-chancellor’s panel, Hoj added institutions needed to move away from the “easy stats, which are numbers” towards understanding yield per student.

“The yield per student is something that we have to maximise, and you can only do that through not discounting your product too much and through building your reputation,” he said.

Around 30% of Queensland’s international students currently study within a regional area, and according to Central Queensland University vice-chancellor Nick Klomp, talent acquisition was increasingly important for those areas.

“Not only have I been welcomed by the local mayors and all the local industries and enterprise organisations, but they’ve all said can you bring more international students,” he said.

“We need them for the economy, they’re welcome here, but also we need them as graduates for what’s going on in the growth industries.”

IEAA president and James Cook University PVC international Melissa Banks, meanwhile, said tourism-style marketing needed to decouple from education marketing.

“That good time destination, we’ve got to shift that,” she said, adding agent feedback indicated parents were more concerned about education outcomes over their child having a good tourism experience.

“There’s a marketing aspect to it, but there are also outcomes. That talent attraction and then talent retention is a really critical part of the story.”

SQ has upped its focus on regional centres recently, launching several study hubs outside of capital city Brisbane.

The 2020 IET Summit will be held in Townsville.

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