Published in The Advertiser 22nd Feb 2022
The successful return of international students to South Australia is critical for our state’s future prosperity – now more than ever, and for reasons we might never have imagined.
With international borders open, we will see the long-awaited return of thousands of students.
The absence of many international students during the pandemic has hit our city and state hard. We’ve missed the vibrancy and diversity they bring. Local businesses have missed the spending power of students and their visiting families, who I hope will visit South Australia again soon.
Without them, many local employers have struggled to find enough workers. Looking forward, student skills and labour will be essential to help our local businesses grow and prosper. International students are job makers, not job takers.
Thanks to analysis by Deloitte Access Economics, we’ve known for years that every three international students that come to Adelaide create one local job. But as we begin to re-open, there’s a much bigger picture here for South Australia. The return of international students and growth of international education in South Australia is not only key to our COVID recovery, but also our future ambitions as a state.
International education needs to be part of every conversation we have about building prosperity and opportunities for our state, whether we’re talking about economic growth, population growth, workforce planning, skills development, investment attraction, export growth, tourism and major events or research and innovation.
The fortunes of SA’s economy and our prosperity are dependent on our ability to develop and attract a highly-skilled workforce to take advantage of the opportunities that lie ahead.
It’s unrealistic to think this workforce can be entirely developed from within South Australia in the near term.
The workforce and skills required for SA to realise its potential relies on us winning the global competition for talent in defence, space, health and medical, energy and mining, and the creative industries.
And there’s no better talent scout for SA than our international education sector.
Before COVID, our international student numbers had risen to record levels. It will take some time to rebuild, but the signs for additional future growth are positive.
In the past two years, SA has enhanced its reputation as an international education destination.
This is a result of the way we’ve supported our existing local international students through a challenging time and our engagement with students offshore waiting to come here.
We now have a golden opportunity to build on that reputation to become a magnet for talent.
Let’s focus on continuing to make international students feel welcome while they’re studying here and encouraging more international students to stay and make SA their home.