West Australians choose study based on economic conditions

According to Committee for Perth’s latest FACTBase Bulletin 74, drivers for undertaking higher education studies are strongly influenced by short- and medium-term economic conditions, industry and employment trends.

This was evident during the mining boom, which saw participation in higher education studies across WA dropping 10% below that of non-mining states.

However, despite the mining sector’s continual economic and employment contributions to WA, residents have been shifting away from studying mining-associated disciplines in favour of service sector disciplines such as education and health.

Human capital – a term that describes the skills, learning, talents and attributes of a population – is a central ingredient of competitive cites and has been associated with higher rates of productivity, creativity, innovation, social wellbeing and quality of life.

Committee for Perth CEO, Marion Fulker, highlights the importance of building human capital.

“Higher rates of human capital bring countless mutual gains, particularly economic development and growth, which is why it’s importance to Perth’s competitiveness cannot be understated.

“A positive relationship between human capital and employment highlights the need for government and industry intervention, working cohesively to create strategic roles across a diverse range of sectors in Perth to strengthen the region’s long-term economic stability.”

A hyper-local look into human capital trends across Local Government Areas (LGAs) show disparity across Greater Perth regions, with higher human capital scores primarily clustered in areas immediately surrounding central Perth. LGAs with a low human capital scores were primarily concentrated in the south-west and south-east regions of Greater Perth.

Mrs Fulker acknowledges the need to focus on supporting areas of human capital disadvantage within Greater Perth.

“The choices that young people make to work, enrol at university or undertake vocational study are complex and influenced by the individual, their family, schooling and their where they live. Without concerted effort, the postcode a child is born in could determine their future.”

Additional findings from the Bulletin include:

  • 2020 enrolments highlight education, health and natural and physical sciences as the top three fields of study in Western Australia, with enrolment in education as a discipline being the highest in the country.
  • Victoria, New South Wales and South Australia house the highest proportion enrolments in study for persons aged 15–19 years, followed by Western Australia then Queensland respectively.
  • Certificate III & IV (1.17), secondary education (1.05) and advanced diploma and associate degree (1.05) make up the top three highest education qualifications in Greater Perth.

FACTBase Bulletin 74 forms part of Committee for Perth’s Future of Work project — a two-year initiative that aims to equip WA and its people for the changing world of work.