STEM-skilled workforce key priority in Australian Budget 2019-20

Building a stronger Australian workforce with more science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) skills is taking precedence in the Australian Budget for 2019-20.

On April 2, the Australian government announced its commitment to making sure Australians of all ages have the skills to equip them for jobs of the future, which include an increasing demand for STEM-skilled people.

A release from Minister for Industry, Science and Technology, Karen Andrews, stated that in order to ensure children can compete for jobs in the coming decades the country needs to build a stronger Australian workforce with more STEM skills.

The federal government announced a $3.4 million package over four years, supporting greater participation of girls and women in STEM.

This includes funding to extend the Science in Australia Gender Equity initiative in higher education and research institutions and showcasing the benefits of STEM skills and careers to our children to encourage more participation in STEM.

The government wants to reduce the barriers preventing young Australians from accessing science and the 2019-20 Budget delivers $15.1m for Questacon to expand its successful programs to promote science to nurture the next generation of Australian scientists.

There will also be a pilot of a national version of an initiative giving Australian university students and graduates the opportunity to apply their skills to real world problems and solve challenges that benefit local businesses. Funding of $3.6m over two years will deliver up to 15 Innovation Games each year, including in regional areas.

The 2019-20 Budget will also see a new $19.5m national Space Infrastructure Fund launched to support Australia’s emerging domestic space industry.

This will help triple the size of the Australian space sector to $12 billion and increase employment to 30,000 jobs by 2030, as part of a plan to create more jobs and growth in emerging sectors of the economy.

The government’s investment in space is underpinned by the new 10-year Australian Civil Space Strategy that will also help to ensure the space sector can gain a larger share of the US$350b global space economy.

The $19.5m Space Infrastructure Fund includes:

  • The delivery of a space manufacturing capability in New South Wales that will support the development of high-tech skills and new space objects.
  • A Mission Control Centre in South Australia, which will create a platform for SMEs and researchers to control small satellite missions, enabling real-time control and testing and the accelerated development of Australian satellite technology.