Increase in health and ageing jobs a win for Coffs Harbour
THE future looks bright for the youth of Coffs Harbour, with a leading Australian social commentator predicting a significant rise in jobs in healthcare and ageing.
Recent research released by prominent author and demographer Bernard Salt AM has highlighted Coffs Harbour as one of the fastest-growing regional areas in Australia.
Alongside growth, he says, comes jobs.
"Coffs Harbour is emerging as a large city by Australian standards in the NSW Mid North Coast," Mr Salt says.
"The city will continue to rise in importance within Australia, creating business opportunities and lots of local jobs."
Mr Salt says the future of employment in Coffs Harbour lies within the health and ageing sector, but there is a strong need to retain the youth of Coffs Harbour in order to provide a labour-ready workforce.
"There is no doubt that the retention of youth is the main issue across regional Australia," Mr Salt says.
"I don't care whether you're a small community like Gundagai or a large community like Coffs Harbour, it's something that unites regional Australians: how do we hang onto our youth?"
It's an issue that concerns many people in our community, given the high youth unemployment rate of 23.3%.
Mr Salt believes the solution lies in improving levels of tertiary education and entrepreneurship among our young people.
Head of Campus and Dean of Graduate Studies at Southern Cross University Professor Leslie Christidis agrees, saying although there are world-class tertiary institutions located right here on our doorstep, young people often believe they need to leave the area in order to get a degree or other qualifications.
"The reality is that you can finish high school and get a world-class university degree right here in Coffs Harbour," Prof. Christidis says.
"Health jobs are growing exponentially here in Coffs and our nursing graduates have one of the highest employment rates of any nursing graduates in the country-97% go on to land a job after graduation. You're pretty much guaranteed a rewarding career."
Southern Cross University's Coffs Harbour campus delivers a range of health-related courses, including Nursing, Occupational Therapy, Midwifery, Exercise science and Psychology.
The university's psychology course has recently been ranked number one in Australia by the Federal Government's Quality Indicators for Learning and Teaching (QILT) assessment, outperforming other major metropolitan universities.
"Students are travelling from Sydney and Melbourne to complete their Honours degrees here at our Coffs campus because it's considered the best in the country," says Dr Desiree Kozlowski, Lecturer in Psychology.
"We have a huge mix of students here; there are a bunch entering university straight from year 12 and we also have a 'Preparing for Success' transition program for students who haven't studied for a while. Many of our students are the first in their family to ever attend a university, we have a lot of students from low socio-economic backgrounds, indigenous students and students from non-English speaking backgrounds."
Local Psychologist Jodi Wittenberg completed her Psychology Honours degree at Southern Cross University Coffs Harbour in 2016, and says she had an overwhelmingly positive experience.
"It was really inspiring studying here at Coffs. I felt so supported; I think because it's a smaller university we got the chance to know all of the academic staff and they got to know each and every student, so it was extremely supportive. I can see why they've been ranked the best in the country."
Jodi now works at the Coffs Harbour Women's Health Centre and Headspace, where she helps young people navigate the often challenging transition through to adulthood.
"I grew up in a rural area myself and wasn't really aware of my options as a teenager-I thought that university was just for the wealthy families that could support their kids; I didn't see it as an option for me. I went straight into the workforce after school and didn't start my university degree until I was in my late 20s," Jodi explains.
"One of the key things I pass on to the young people I work with is that there are so many incredible opportunities to study and work locally. You don't need to move away when we have an amazing, high quality university right here."
With a new $12 million Health Sciences building set to open at the end of this year, Southern Cross University's Coffs Harbour campus is set to expand its course offerings even further in coming years, with a focus on the health and ageing professions.