I am honoured to be invited here today to open AMSI’s 2017 Winter School on the Computational Foundations of Data Science.
It’s also a pleasure to be back here at the Queensland University of Technology from where I graduated as a Mechanical Engineer in 1983.
I especially welcome all the students and early career researchers here today – it’s great to see your enthusiasm as you embark on a journey to advance your knowledge in the field of computational mathematics.
The lecturers and organisers of this event have brought together an impressive line-up of speakers and their efforts are to be commended.
There’s one figure from the National Innovation Science Agenda that stands out for me – some 75% of future work will require STEM-based skills.
It’s clear Australia will increasingly depend on a workforce with STEM skills, because it will drive innovation and competitiveness in a global economy.
This is why it’s important we develop multiple pathways to learn those skills – for careers that are either academic or vocational.
Already, STEM skills are becoming more sought after, especially for advancing technology and transforming industry.
In the field of information technology – and this new era of data management – the ability to protect ourselves against cyber-attack will rely heavily on workers with those skills.
If Australia’s prosperity is to continue this century, it’ll be underpinned by people like you.
It’ll be underpinned by AMSI and this flagship program – and the passion of its students and teachers.
You’re here today because now, more than ever, we need to champion the value of science, technology, engineering and maths – not just within Higher Education, but in vocational training and skills.
And if we can do that, we can cultivate this passion throughout every part of our community.
Given my own background, this has been my personal passion, as well as my professional focus.
AMSI’s higher education programs – and the way it champions the value of maths and science – are second to none.
I’m also impressed with the QUT STEM for Schools initiative that offers free educational activities including workshops, school events, digital experiences, and a residential STEM camp.
The Turnbull Government is keenly aware of the need to engage more students in STEM disciplines.
That’s why we support the Winter School so strongly because it helps develop the skills base of our future workforce.
So there is great work being done … but the challenge is great and there are some hurdles for us to clear.
One issue close to my heart is the fact that there are still not enough girls and women considering careers in mathematics.
The trends of flat-lining or declining performance of mathematics in Australian schools is also a big concern to myself and the Australian Government.
If we don’t tackle these two key areas, we’ll find it much harder to adapt to the challenges ahead.
By working together, we can make a difference.
I’m also very pleased with the strong leadership AMSI has shown in getting more women into STEM.
It’s one of the important reasons the Government has invested in AMSI.
And it’s why there’s a number of government programs that I’m confident will deliver strong results.
While the Government provides support for STEM through almost all levels of education, the investment in higher education and research funding programs has never been higher.
The Education and Training portfolio alone will commit a total of $11.9 billion, from 2017-18 to 2020-21, to support Australia’s research capacity and higher education research sector.
Our funding is distributed through Australian Research Council competitive grants, research block grants to universities, research infrastructure and other targeted initiatives.
They include the Government’s $28 million investment to expand the AMSI intern program into a truly national research internship program (NRIP).
Along with AMSI, the government intends to deliver a new National Research Internships Program that will be open to students this year.
The $28 million investment will deliver 1400 new internships to students enrolled in a PhD program, and I am sure this initiative will be of interest to all of you here today.
I think the theme for this year’s winter school on Computational Foundations of Data Science is also a very timely topic in light of the Australian Government’s Cyber Security Strategy.
It’s timely because we recognise that the world is clearly in a new digital age, so it’s critical Australia is well prepared to manage a future in data science.
We’ll need strong mathematical capability across a range of information management and computational technologies.
These skills will help create a workforce with greater capability to tackle the fundamental challenge of “turning data into knowledge”.
So I am very optimistic that events like this week’s AMSI Winter School will contribute to developing the next generation of scientists and mathematicians who can thrive in tomorrow’s information age.
These are real-world issues that will make this kind of teaching more tangible – and that’s incredibly important.
The opening of the 2017 Winter School is a great example of how the Government can support organisations to work directly with higher education institutions to deliver programs that engage students and encourage early career researchers.
The Turnbull Government’s $2 million investment in AMSI through the ‘Securing Australia’s Mathematical Workforce’ project recognises the importance and value of these programs to provide students with more opportunities to explore careers in maths and science.
I talked about the relevance of all this learning to our economy and to government policy, but I would also like to mention another new initiative that the Government is also going to deliver.
The Rural and Regional Enterprise Scholarships (RRES) will provide $24 million in funding between 2017 18 and 2020-21 to improve access to and completion of STEM tertiary education courses for students from regional and remote Australia.
While it is regionally focused, the scholarship applicant will have the option to study at providers located anywhere in Australia, including major cities.
The Government will continue to look for the best ways to support better learning in these subjects, because a strong capability in these areas is crucial to our national prosperity.
It’s why government recognises the value of collaborations, in particularly with industry, because it provides more work-integrated learning.
And it’s why we’re so supportive of AMSI.
I want to thank the organisers, teachers and participants of this 2017 Winter School. I hope you enjoy the experience and find benefit from your week ahead.
I wish you every success in your future endeavours – and I hope your passion in this field will inspire others to forge a similar path.