News and published articles in 2017 and 2016

  • Upper Hunter Regional Development Economist

    Call for expressions of interest by 18 Oct 2017
    Friday, 6 October, 2017

    Upper-Hunter-scene-low-res

    Does assessing the viability of economic development options for a region in transition appeal to you? Are you looking for a personal transition – from the bowels of a bureaucracy to the leading edge of insight and application? A change in lifestyle, as well?

    We need someone to support the Muswellbrook Shire Council’s program of economic diversification and jobs generation. At the same time, you will advance the research program of the Hunter Research Foundation (HRF) Centre, an institution with a 60-year history of social, economic, and environmental research in the Hunter Valley.

    The HRF Centre aims to develop a deeper understanding of the dynamics of regions going through significant economic transitions by employing a research model that is strongly engaged with key stakeholders in government, industry and the community. In that quest, the Upper Hunter region – with its coal mining, power generation, agricultural and equine industries – is a key case study.

    The individual selected for this position will be working alongside staff in Muswellbrook Shire Council, either placed in Muswellbrook or spending on average 2-3 days per week in the town. The position is also engaged with the HRF Centre at the University of Newcastle on the 8th floor of its inspiring NeW Space facility in the Newcastle CBD. We have stunning views of the harbour and out to the ocean as well as easy access to key players in business and government.

    Working closely with the HRF Centre’s director and lead economist, as well as with staff and stakeholders in Muswellbrook Shire, you will undertake research and analysis to inform investment and economic development opportunities in the Upper Hunter region. For example, what are the costs and benefits of developing Muswellbrook into a bio-energy hub or for intensive agriculture on buffer land around the coal mines?

    You will be involved in pursuit of funding for research and development applicable to the region. You will help to identify and publicise findings among key stakeholders in the region as well as to academic audiences for application in other regions. These engagement tasks will require building on the HRF Centre’s current relationships in the region as well as in government and industry, more generally. It will also incorporate collaboration with other applied research efforts around the university. In sum, the role includes desktop research, interviews and analysis as well as presentations and other forms of reporting.

    We seek someone with experience tracking social and economic indicators and conducting cost-benefit analyses in a range of sectors. You will need an understanding of economic modelling strategies that are potentially applicable at regional and town levels and a familiarity with aspects of complex system behaviours as applied to the socioeconomic aspects of towns and regions. You should also have a keen interest in playing a role in applied research developing new interdisciplinary methods for measuring and forecasting.

    The position is funded initially for one year. Funding for subsequent years is currently being pursued.The position will start as soon as you are ready, with November being ideal.

    You will need a postgraduate qualification in applied economics or a related field, or equivalent experience in industry and/or government, plus a strong desire to make a difference.

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  • Transition plays out in Upper Hunter economy

    Friday, 6 October, 2017

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    The future of energy and the Hunter were the focus of the HRF Centre’s Upper Hunter economic breakfast last week in Muswellbrook.

    Presentations and a panel session at the breakfast highlighted some of the challenges that the region faces as we continue to undergo an economic transition. It also showcased some exciting opportunities for transitioning our region to a more economically, socially and environmentally sustainable future.

    AGL Macquarie’s General Manager, Kate Coates, addressed the planned closure of Liddell and Bayswater power stations in 2022 and 2035, respectively.

    Ms Coates joined Professor Richard Bush, the University of Newcastle’s Global Innovation Chair in the International Centre for Balanced Land Use, in a panel discussion on the future of energy and the Hunter. Other panelists were Geoff Doherty, PhD, Senior Biotechnologist for Ethanol Technologies (Ethtec) and Pat Conroy, MP, Deputy Chair of the Standing Committee on the Environment and Energy.

    Ethtec, the University and Muswellbrook Shire Council have been working toward transformation of the Upper Hunter region into a national bio-renewables hub. Ethtec are leading a project to build a demonstration facility in the Upper Hunter. The facility will employ a novel process to turn agricultural wastes into valuable fuels, such as ethanol, and chemical feedstocks.

    Prof. Bush said that such ventures could enable the Hunter to become a national and international exemplar in the transition to clean energy and sustainable technologies. We have competitive advantages with our research-intensive university, industrial capability and supply chains, and natural resources. The only significant hurdle is the prosperity of our past, hampering us from opening our minds to new opportunities.

    The HRF Centre’s latest Upper Hunter economic indicators show continued business and consumer confidence in the Upper Hunter economy in the first half of 2017. Our data show that confidence in the long term among businesses and consumers remains above the lows experienced in 2014 and 2015.

    Renewed confidence is likely a result of higher prices for thermal coal. They were sustained over the first half of the year. That has boosted activity and employment in the Upper Hunter mining sector.

    While coal prices have picked up since August last year, it is uncertain whether demand will be sustained in the decades ahead. The near-term economic imperative to transition away from coal is not strong. Proving the longer-term economic case for pursuing bio-renewables remains a challenge for the energy companies, our University colleagues, and other researchers.

    The HRF Centre will continue to monitor the Upper Hunter economy through our surveys and research. By providing greater understanding of economic trends, we plan to continue to contribute to what we hope will be the region’s successful transition in coming years.

    This opinion piece was published in the Newcastle Herald on Tuesday 26 September

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  • Future of energy in the Hunter: at Upper Hunter breakfast 20 Sept.

    Thursday, 14 September, 2017

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    Download latest Upper Hunter Economic Indicators  | Download Insights for the Upper Hunter Economy presentation - Sept 2017

    Recent discussion about Australia’s energy future has focused on AGL’s planned closure of the Upper Hunter’s Liddell power station. Liddell’s future - and energy in the Hunter more generally - were the theme of the Upper Hunter economic breakfast in Muswellbrook on 20 September. 

    AGL Macquarie’s General Manager Kate Coates discussed the Liddell and Bayswater power stations, which are due to close in 2022 and 2035, respectively, along with investment in cleaner energy technologies.

    A panel discussion on the topic had Kate Coates joined by Professor Richard Bush of the University of Newcastle’s International Centre for Balanced Land Use. Other panelists are Geoff Doherty, PhD, of Ethanol Technologies and Pat Conroy MP, Deputy Chair of the Standing Committee on the Environment and Energy.

    Putting this discussion into context, the HRF Centre released at the breakfast its latest Upper Hunter Region Economic Indicators. The Centre’s Lead Economist, Dr Anthea Bill reported that renewed business and consumer optimism in the Upper Hunter economy continues in the first half of 2017.

    “Our data show that confidence in the long term among businesses and consumers remains above the lows experienced in 2014 and 2015. Renewed confidence is likely a result of higher thermal coal prices sustained over the first half of the year. That has boosted activity and employment in the Upper Hunter mining sector.”

    The Upper Hunter economic breakfast was held at Muswellbrook RSL on Wednesday, 20 September.

    READ THE PANEL TRANSCRIPT

    Download Newcastle Herald Opinion Piece by HRF Centre's Dr Anthea Bill

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  • New thinking required to boost youth employment

    Tuesday, 22 August, 2017

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    Youth employment was the focus at the August Hunter Economic breakfast of the Hunter Research Foundation (HRF) Centre.

    The Hunter’s youth unemployment rate for June was 10.8 per cent, double the overall rate of 5.1 per cent. The youth rate is more responsive to labour market conditions than the overall rate. Young people are ‘on the margin’, having had less opportunity to acquire qualifications or build skills given their shorter employment history.

    Studies indicate that young people who complete vocational education and training achieve better long-term employment outcomes than those who do no post-school training. However, data on Hunter apprenticeship completions for 15 to 24 year olds shows a 24 per cent decline since 2012. The decline has occurred across most sectors, with the greatest falls in manufacturing, retail, other services and hospitality.

    Apprentice numbers can be seen to reflect to economy-wide employment shifts. To counter this trend, there have been calls for an increase in industry provision of apprenticeships. To prioritise spending on apprenticeships and traineeships, the Federal Government has committed $1.5 billion through the Skilling Australians fund.

    Maggie Hill, from the Foundation for Young Australians (FYA), spoke at the Hunter economic breakfast on the shift in thinking needed in order to prepare for the ‘new world of work’. She explained the patterns of skills that young Australians are being asked to exhibit, which were revealed in a recent study commissioned by FYA.

    The study’s analysis of 2.7 million job advertisements showed that employers are increasingly seeking ‘enterprise’ skills, including digital and financial literacy, communication, creativity and problem-solving ability. Hill said that young people need to be formally taught these skills at school.

    The FYA analysis found that jobs are more related than we might think, falling into seven clusters. Hill said that, on average, a person training or working in one job acquires skills for 13 others. By understanding that jobs are more related and that skills can be portable, young people can prepare for a dynamic work environment.

    Employers could also think differently when recruiting and consider potential candidates from different occupations with similar skills.

    The Department of Employment’s Regional Manager, April Carlin, spoke at the breakfast. Carlin promoted the Department’s new Youth Jobs PaTH program.

    “The PaTH program trains young people in those flexible skill sets that Maggie Hill from FYA has been talking about,” Carlin said. “We now have the ability within the training sector to customise courses. That ensures that job-seekers can be quickly brought up to speed with skills.”

    The Department of Employment and the HRF Centre will soon host a workshop on youth employment in the Hunter. That will occur at the University’s NeW Space on Hunter Street later this year.

    Your business can contribute to solutions to this critical regional issue, with the support of the Department of Employment. If you want to take part or find out how Youth Jobs PaTH can help you recruit suitable young people into your business, contact Mark Almond using the link below.

    Dr Anthea Bill
    Lead Economist, HRF Centre

    This opinion piece was published in the Newcastle Herald on 22 August 2017

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  • Be part of the solution to youth unemployment

    Wednesday, 16 August, 2017

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    Youth employment was the focus at the August Hunter Economic breakfast of the Hunter Research Foundation (HRF) Centre.

    The Australian Government’s Department of Employment was HRF Centre’s corporate breakfast partner and assisted in lining up the keynote speaker, Maggie Hill from the Foundation for Young Australians.

    Hill’s presentation was followed by a panel discussion exploring solutions to a local challenge - the Hunter’s youth unemployment rate for June was 10.8 per cent, double our overall rate of 5.1 per cent.

    The panel included the Department of Employment’s Regional Manager for the Hunter and Northern Employment Regions in NSW, April Carlin (pictured). Carlin promoted the Department’s new Youth Jobs PaTH program.

    The PaTH program boosts the employability skills of young people who have been unemployed for six months or more. It also offers financial incentives to employers to trial young persons for a job by offering them internships.

    “The PaTH program trains young people in those flexible skill sets that Maggie Hill from FYA has been talking about,” Carlin said. “We now have the ability within the training sector to customise courses. That ensures that job-seekers can be quickly brought up to speed with skills.”

    The Department of Employment and the HRF Centre will soon host a workshop on youth employment in the Hunter.That will occur at our new venue - NeW Space on Hunter Street - later in the year.

    Do you have opportunities available for young people? Your business can contribute to solutions to this critical regional issue, with the support of the Department of Employment. Their workshop will explore the support and incentives available to help you.

    If you want to take part, or are interested in more information about how Youth Jobs PaTH can help you recruit suitable young people into your business, click on the link below to contact Mark Almond.

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  • Employers pay premium for right skills among youth

    Tuesday, 15 August, 2017

    Maggie-wide

    Youth employment was the focus at the August Hunter Economic breakfast of the Hunter Research Foundation (HRF) Centre. Maggie Hill from the Foundation for Young Australians (FYA) described the skills sets required by young people to gain a job in one of range of job clusters.

    Insights into the patterns of skills that young people are being asked to exhibit came from analysis of 2.7 million job advertisements. The analysis revealed that young people need to acquire enterprise skills, including digital and financial literacy. They also need communication, creativity and problem solving abilities.

    Employers will pay more for those skills. The FYA jobs analysis showed that presentation skills earned a salary premium of $8,853, digital literacy meant another $8,648, and problem-solving added $7,745.

    These abilities are talked about as ‘soft’ skills that young people should pick up for themselves. The FYA advocates for them to be deliberately taught these skills. They want to stress their importance and show young people how to communicate to prospective employers that they have these skills.

    The FYA study compared how often enterprise skills were called for in early career job advertisements, comparing 2012 with 2015. During this period, there was a 212 per cent increase in the call for digital literacy, 181 per cent increase for bilingual skills, 158 per cent for critical thinking, and a 65 per cent increase for creativity.

    These insights are particularly relevant in regions like the Hunter, where the youth unemployment rate for June was 10.8 per cent, double our overall rate of 5.1 per cent. This higher rate illustrates how young people are often ‘on the margin’ - in part-time or casual employment, where they are easier to let go.

    Relative to more experienced labour market participants, young people tend to lack skills, qualifications and an employment history. That makes them particularly vulnerable during periods of employment contraction.

    To respond to this regional challenge, the HRF Centre’s breakfast included a panel discussion that explored solutions to help young people to navigate their path to employment.

    Geoff Crews from Forsythes Recruitment, speaking on the panel, said that leadership was important in ensuring meaningful work opportunities for young people.

    Another area of emerging opportunity for young people is in the changing nature of marketing and business technology, Crews said.

    “Modern leaders and businesses will now neither completely outsource or insource these functions. They will lean on the knowledge and lateral thinking of a young employee. They will, innately, be able to achieve a range of marketing and technology outcomes by using more agile and cost effective cloud and digital platforms.”

    Maggie Hill said that the era of a ‘job for life’ is over. Young Australians entering the workforce today might have as many as five different careers and make 17 job changes over their working lives.

    “It is commonly viewed that moving from one occupation to another would entail high switching and retraining costs. However, our study found that jobs are more related than we might think.”

    The FYH study found that, on average, a person training or working in one job acquires skills for 13 other jobs. By understanding that jobs are more related and that skills can be portable, young people can be more strategic in navigating dynamic working lives.

    “Rather than approaching learning as a one-off process before their first job, or as a radical retraining to change careers, young people can build a portfolio of skills. They can target key learning areas to open up related job and career opportunities throughout their life.”

    Employers also need to think differently when recruiting. They could consider potential candidates from different occupations with similar skills.

    Is your business ready to provide opportunities for the Hunter’s young people? If so, the HRF Centre would like to hear from you.

    Dr Anthea Bill,
    Lead Economist, HRF Centre

    Access the research and breakfast presentations at www.newcastle.edu.au/hrfc

    This opinion piece was published in the Newcastle Sunday on 13 August

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