Release type: Speech


Speech - Launch of the Pearson Migrant and Student Study


The Hon Brendan O'Connor MP
Minister for Skills and Training

I want to begin by acknowledging the Ngunnawal and Ngambri peoples, the Traditional Owners of the Canberra area.

I pay my respects to elders past and present, and all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people joining us today.

I am pleased to be here to launch Pearson’s discussion paper and to speak about the importance of international students and skilled migrants to this country.

Skilled Migration is integral to the story of modern Australia.

It has fuelled Australia’s economic growth and it has deepened our cultural evolution.

As a migrant I understand the positive impact migration can have on an individual and their family.

I also understand the positive impact migration has upon communities, the economy, and our country.

Skilled migrants and international students not only enhance Australia’s workforce and economy, they contribute to our rich cultural diversity.

The depth and breadth of this contribution to communities is invaluable.

For example, international education is Australia’s 4th biggest export and the biggest export of my home state Victoria.  

International students currently in Australia are expected to contribute around 130,000 skilled migrants to our workforce after they graduate, filling vital skills gaps.

According to ABS data, foreign students spent nearly $48 billion in Australia just last year.

And Analysis by NAB economists showed spending by international students was responsible for an 0.8 percent increase in GDP in 2023, over half of last year’s recorded 1.5 economic growth.

So, the numbers are in.

And it’s a two-way story of opportunity.

84 percent of those surveyed by Pearson say Australia has met or exceeded their expectations.

While 86 percent of respondents see progressing their skills and education as a key goal.

Take Jasmeet for example.

He came to Australia from India in 2020 to study – and then the pandemic hit.

He was so moved by the community support extended to him and other international students that he decided to study nursing.

His aim – to give back to the community that welcomed him.

Jasmeet’s is just one of thousands of stories that illustrate why we are working hard to make sure we have a high-quality vocational education and training sector.

All migrants seek a better future for themselves and their families.

Almost two thirds of those surveyed said Australia’s education sector was a key driver for coming to Australia.

Which is why we are also focused on ensuring our VET sector is safe, welcoming and supportive for both domestic and international students.  

Our legislation to strengthen integrity in the vocational education and training sector is very close to becoming law.

The bill gives greater powers to the regulator to remove unscrupulous and non-genuine providers.

Because there is no place for dodgy operators who take advantage of students and undermine the strong reputation of the sector.

Vocational education and training also provides us with a unique opportunity to strengthen key bilateral relationships.

Next month I’ll be travelling to Gujarat, in India, to further bolster our historically strong education and training ties. 

I’ll be touring several training facilities, including the International Automobile Centre of Excellence, an end-to-end training facility that is playing a key role in developing the automotive sector in India.

Since 2016, the centre has been a partnership between The Kangan Institute, India’s Government of Gujarat and the Indian automaker, Maruti Suzuki.

The Centre is the first of its kind in India.

And Kangan’s involvement highlights the unique opportunities that exist to showcase Australia’s world-class training models internationally.

I’ll be meeting with Ministers, officials and leaders from the tertiary sectors in Australia and India, as we continue to learn from each other. 

Because a strong tertiary sector is essential for a strong economy.

We put a high value on ensuring international students are welcomed here and their contribution is recognised and celebrated.

Because many of the people acquiring the skills we need as a nation to progress and prosper are international students and migrants.

And this discussion paper sheds light on how they feel about Australia and the valuable contribution they are making.

Thank you.