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Education is key to knowledge economy

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A strong skills base and buoyant education system are vital ingredients in the transformation of traditional manufacturing economies into knowledge industry strongholds.

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Adelaide's economic advantages

South Australia has three highly ranked public universities and is positioning itself as Australia’s knowledge state.

Previously a state that relied heavily on manufacturing, farming and mining, South Australia is using its strong skills base to move into more hi-tech industries such as Defence, IT and medical devices and has set up an Investment Attraction South Australia to pave the way.

The University of Adelaide, Flinders University and the University of South Australia have partnered with TAFE SA and peak industry body the Defence Teaming Centre to help deliver a defence-ready, and especially maritime-ready, workforce with skills in engineering, information and computer technology, and a range of trades.

The new Defence Industry Education and Skills Consortium will work closely with multinational, national and local defence companies to ensure Australian jobs are at the forefront in defence projects worth $195 billion over the next 20 years. This includes the Australian Government’s $89 billion investment in naval ships and submarines, the bulk of which are expected to be built at Techport Australia in Adelaide.

Earlier this year the Federal Government announced it would also invest $25 million in a maritime technical college to be headquartered in Adelaide.

CEO of the Defence Teaming Centre Margot Forster said the unprecedented decision to establish a continuous build program for surface ships and submarines in South Australia provided security for the workforce.

She said the majority of the 5500 new defence jobs expected to be created in the continuous build would be in South Australia.

“By having the consortium and having it directly linked with the industry through the Defence Teaming Centre it can be really responsive,” Forster said.

“The consortium focuses on working together to make sure that the universities and TAFE really are giving the defence industry exactly what it needs in terms of the skills and qualifications.”

The South Australian defence industry also hosts multinational companies SAAB, Raytheon, BAE and Lockheed Martin, all of which rely on a steady stream of engineering and IT graduates from the state’s universities.

Car manufacturing, which has played a major role in the South Australian economy for more than 50 years, will all but end in the state when Holden closes its Elizabeth plant later this year.

However, Adelaide-based medical device manufacturers such as Micro-X and SMR Technologies are applying knowhow from the car industry to increase efficiency.

Micro-X is preparing for the commercial launch of its lightweight x-ray machines that are being assembled at its Tonsley Innovation Hub base. The company has recruited several former Holden workers to help to streamline production.

“The idea of sourcing talent from the car industry has proven to be an absolute breakthrough because it’s a mindset that nobody – at least in my knowledge – has ever thought of applying to medical devices,” Micro-X Managing Director Peter Rowland said.

“What I love about the car industry is the rigor and discipline because you cannot achieve the quality and cost and reliability that the car industry achieves without a lot of discipline and a lot of hard work.

“Just bringing that thinking from Holden into our plant has been brilliant.

“The management out at Elizabeth is very enlightened. Their people (at Holden) are trained with a breadth of skills, a culture and a way of working that is spectacular.”

South Australia has more than 93,000 students enrolled in university courses.

Additionally, more than 30,000 international students from 125 countries choose Adelaide, providing international knowledge and language expertise.

This abundance of quality graduates coupled with Adelaide’s affordable cost of doing business and enviable lifestyle is also helping the city become a technology hub for IT companies including Buddy Platform, Datacom and HappyCo.

The city was the first outside of the United States to join Smart City initiator and internet application development organisation US Ignite.

Last year the South Australian Government also announced Adelaide Gig City, which will connect businesses with Adelaide’s innovation precincts such as Tonsley, and the state’s Health and Biomedical Precinct.

PrimeQ, one of Australasia’s fastest growing cloud services companies, recently announced a major expansion in South Australia, following a $500,000 grant from the South Australian Government via Investment Attraction South Australia, an agency tasked with helping investors establish themselves in the state.

PrimeQ began operating in May 2016 and has already grown to 86 staff with offices across Australia and New Zealand.

It is headquartered in Adelaide where it will establish an Innovation Centre, 24/7 Technology Support Hub and Graduate Program to drive cloud research and development, intellectual property and 24/7 access to South Australian cloud technology expertise.

Chief Executive Officer Andrew McAdams said the investment positioned PrimeQ as the cloud services leader in Australia and New Zealand.

He said ease of movement and access to quality graduates made Adelaide “a really easy place to do business” and a logical place to establish head office.

“The industry is changing very quickly and I think South Australia has an opportunity to do something really interesting,” McAdams said.

South Australian Investment and Trade Minister Martin Hamilton-Smith said PrimeQ’s IT graduates program represented a rare pathway for students to advance to senior ranks in highly skilled careers in Adelaide.

“The skills and technical capabilities which will be created and fostered under the PrimeQ expansion represent high transformational value and potential to South Australia,” he said.

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