Knowledge, as embodied in human beings (as “human capital”) and in technology, has always been central to economic development. But only over the last ten years has its relative importance been recognised, just as that importance is growing.

The Peel region performs poorly in terms of its Human Capital Index (HCI), an issue which will be explored in more detail in the forthcoming RDA regional plan.  The HCI value for Metro Perth and Peel fell from 2.48 to 0.74 between 2001 and 2011.  Whilst the HCI score for Perth and Peel remained positive in 2011, it had fallen from having the highest level of human capital in 2001 to third by 2011 when compared with Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Adelaide.

The Mandurah, Murray and Waroona areas in particular score poorly in comparison to other local government areas in Perth and Peel.

To establish strong foundations for development of human capital in the Peel region RDA Peel will work with other stakeholders to support existing leadership programs in the region, including determining methodologies to identify new and emerging community and business leaders and provide them with the support, mentoring and resources to develop their leadership skills and abilities.

These activities will fulfil the need for the ongoing influence of effective leaders who can turn knowledge of local competitive advantages and the external economic environment into smart regional development initiatives

As recognised by the Regional Australia Institute “Programs to facilitate wider inclusion in leadership and to mentor the next generation of regional leaders should be considered as a core part of any regional development strategy.”

Knowledge Council

During 2016-17 RDA Peel recognised that in Australia 65 per cent of economic growth per capita from 1964 to 2005 can be ascribed to improvements in our use of capital, labour and technological innovation made possible in large part by STEM.

Evidence presented by Australia Chief Scientist shows that high performing countries are characterised by a number of factors including:

  • a reliable pipeline of STEM graduates whose skills employers value;
  • a STEM-literate population that celebrates discovery and entrepreneurship.

Discussion of this information by stakeholders, along with information on the changing nature of the future workforce, led RDA Peel, in partnership with the Peel Development Commission, bringing key stakeholders (schools, TAFEs, universities, other organisations) together to discuss and workshop the feasibility and scope for developing a Knowledge Council in the region.

This workshop identified potential roles for this model that would lead to a region that:

  • Is curious and inspired to engage in lifelong learning;
  • Has positive perceptions and increased knowledge of STEAM & entrepreneurship;
  • Actively engages with and further develops opportunities in STEAM & entrepreneurship;
  • Is well prepared to regularly up-skill, re-skill and change jobs in the future workforce;
  • Uses their knowledge to benefit the region’s natural environment, community and economy.

Building on the strengths of the region in the arts and its strong connection to STEM discussions have led to the addition of arts and entrepreneurship as key skill area that will be required by future workforce participants.

It’s hard to imagine a discipline that is further away from the hard sciences we associate with STEM than the arts.  In fact, combining arts education with STEM education can provide vital skills such as critical reasoning, problem solving, time management, communication and presentation skills. In addition, design is an important ingredient in innovation. Not only must things be functional, they must be aesthetically pleasing as well.

Research shows that traditional employment arrangements will change markedly over coming years to embody entrepreneurs working in a gig economy as a key workforce element, therefore these skills are essential.

A steering group, led by RDA Peel, is now developing a framework for the Knowledge Council model.