The Sunshine Coast Business Council recently conducted its 7th annual Think Tank Series with more than 20 industry, academic and government participants coming together at the University of the Sunshine Coast (UniSC). The series provided a platform to discuss talent attraction and retention strategies to ensure the Sunshine Coast region is in a strong position to compete nationally and internationally for the resources essential to deliver the region’s economic development strategies.

Sunshine Coast Business Council Chair Sandy Zubrinich said several university professors, council executives, consultants, industry, and business leaders took to the floor to inform the debate referencing various research, regional strategies as well as professional perspectives. Business leaders shared their practical experience when trying to attract or retain the resources they need to operate and grow their businesses.
“It was interesting to hear how the various regional strategies and actions currently in place address talent and resource needs, how they translate into the real world of business on the Sunshine Coast and how changes within all industries and in technology are impacting on the demand, flow and access of talent.
“The growth and change we are experiencing on the Sunshine Coast is being experienced globally and the national and regional markets for resources and key talent, remain very competitive.
“This region must be competitive, collaborative and on our game to attract the resources we need to deliver the projected economic growth at the regional level,” Ms Zubrinich said.
The discussion throughout the Think Tank Series considered regional GRP growth broken down by industries, population growth, education and training across secondary schooling, TAFE and tertiary courses, as well as the type of courses and training being sought by students and businesses. It also considered the gaps in courses or training given regional development strategies.
Ms Zubrinich said attendees had also drawn on key learnings from UniSC academic staff including Professor Ross Young, Vice Chancellor (Research and Innovation), Dr Adrian McCallum, Senior Lecturer Geotechnical Engineering, Dr Wayne Graham, Head of Campus at Caboolture and Senior Lecturer, School of Business and Creative Industries, Dr Dan Abell, Lecturer Human Resource Management and Ms Jasmine Vreugdenburg, the newly appointed Director of the Innovation Centre, who provided her thoughts around innovation and the start-up community.
The key insights shared reaffirmed that businesses and people look for locations that are safe, experiencing growth, are sustainable and innovative and supported by good infrastructure in housing, transport, health, and education facilities, as well as entertainment including a night-time economy. Lifestyle, which includes both the weather and environment, remains an important factor when considering relocating to a region for work or to live, with affordable housing and accommodation, transport and good jobs heading the list.
UniSC Vice-Chancellor (Research and Innovation) Professor Ross Young said the Think Tank Series was an important platform to align and strengthen organisational efforts towards regional development and provided an overview of the Sunshine Coast campus development at Sippy Downs, including plans for student accommodation.

“We are looking ahead at an enormous period of growth for the region, and UniSC is well-positioned to ensure we maximise the benefits to the Sunshine Coast,” Professor Young said.

“I’m particularly pleased that we are in alignment in our views about improving the transport network, providing affordable housing, and ensuring that we are upskilling the region’s workforce for the digital and global careers of the future.”

Think Tank attendee, Jason Garland, Secure Access I.T, Sunshine Coast Founder and Chief Technology Officer agreed that the convergence of industry, government, and education will undeniably play a pivotal role in shaping strategies that not only fortify our regional workforce but also lay the foundation for enduring growth of our local economy.

“Continued investment made by all three levels of government and alignment of education and industry are laying the foundation for a world-class hub across various industries, making the Sunshine Coast region a highly desirable place to call home and a jewel in Queensland’s crown,” Mr Garland said.

“Through the collaborative pooling of knowledge and expertise within this Think Tank, our aim is to foster an ecosystem where businesses can excel, talent can prosper, and our community can enjoy sustained growth.”

The actions agreed at the conclusion of the Think Tank Series included:

  • Continuing advocacy for affordable housing
  • Ensuring future transport infrastructure provides better connection between major precincts
  • Advocating to the State Government for greater flexibility in secondary school curriculum to allow for more targeted teaching and learnings
  • Coordinating marketing activities within schools to increase the awareness of changes in career options being driven by digital technologies, for parents and students
  • The need for both Councils to project a common brand/position for the region to reinforce key messages and the same view of a forward focused, innovative and contemporary economy

“We are pleased with the energy and ideas that were forthcoming and the commitment to work together to put in place what is needed to make the Sunshine Coast competitive and top of mind when businesses and potential employees are considering a change of location,” Ms Zubrinich said.