UOW grads setting a new trend

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Wollongong's Generation Next is thinking ahead and doing its best to break through education constraints in regional Australia.

While the city's educational experience marries with results of a 2014 national report, the significant number of locals enrolled at the University of Wollongong is a cause for optimism.

The Essential Economics report - The Characteristics and Contributions of Australia's Regional Capitals - reveals that the 50 regional centres studied have relatively poor year 12 completion rates.

The year 12 completion rate across the regional capitals sits at 42 per cent compared with 52 per cent nationally.

They also have a considerably lower proportion of residents holding bachelor level and above qualifications - 31 per cent compared with 42 per cent nationally.

But our home-grown, forward-thinking youngsters shine a ray of light on Wollongong.

"In spite of the fact that our stats for year 12 completion rates line up with those numbers, more than 50 per cent of our undergraduates are from the local region," a UOW spokeswoman said.

"That is a real positive."

But just as it comes as no surprise that the report says the "liveability" of regional capitals is superior to metropolitan centres, it is no shock that the socio-economic realities are different too.

Regional capitals are relatively disadvantaged in a national context, with lower incomes, lower educational attainment, and higher unemployment rates all contributing to the situation.

That means workers are more likely to be manual workers and less likely to hold professional and managerial positions.

This, the report says, "highlights the need for actions that improve school retention rates and bolster skills and training".

There is a strong post-school qualification focus on engineering, health and education, architecture and building as well as food, hospitality and personal services in regional Australia.

This, the report suggests, is linked to the presence of many traditional industries, historical factors and access to resources.

But this has a negative impact on the types of investment and jobs that can be attracted in some regional areas due to an inadequate skills balance.

One positive, though, is that the median house price in the Wollongong area - $450,000 - is 28 per cent less than in metropolitan Sydney.

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