La Trobe committed to a regional future

One of the effects of COVID-19 is the way it has accelerated social trends that promise to completely transform regional areas. One shift is the mobilisation of so-called 'tree changers' who are leaving cities in search of the lifestyle offered in the regions.

There's a second shift that supports this demographic change: there's been a rapid acceptance of online, flexible and remote work, giving people more choice in how, where and when they choose to work and study. Without the need to commute to the office every day, living in regional areas has become an attractive alternative for the many people who want to avoid the hustle and bustle of city life but still have a rewarding and diverse career.

Regional cities will only continue to grow. As more people move into town, local workforce needs will expand and diversify. At La Trobe, we believe that our role in regional communities is more important than it has ever been. We must build on our strong regional presence, and our strong connections with local TAFE and industry partners, to support workforce development and innovation in critical areas like health, education, engineering and advanced manufacturing.

We also run the biggest rural health training program in Australia. Our state-of-the-art engineering facilities are regionally-based. And we're already involved in initiatives like the Fraunhofer Digital Transformation Project in collaboration with the City of Greater Bendigo and the Bendigo Manufacturing Group.

In Albury, we're training the future medical workforce through our involvement in the Murray-Darling Medical Schools Network, and working in partnership with the community to identify priorities and projects for investments that will deliver regional prosperity over the next decade through the Albury-Wodonga Regional Deal. All of this not only supports innovation, skills and industry development; it creates jobs.

It's an extension of La Trobe's enduring commitment to closing the gap between the cities and the regions when it comes to higher education participation and attainment. We're proud of our role in producing more than 1,500 graduates every year at our regional campuses, and generating $100 million a year in regional economic activity.

We think we can substantially increase our enrolments in major centres like Bendigo and Albury-Wodonga, which means we will be able operate at a scale that will support locating centres of excellence in the regions, such as the advanced manufacturing and engineering hub that is emerging in Bendigo.

COVID-19 has created challenges for all of us, but regional universities like La Trobe are committed to working to address these challenges hand in hand with the community. Local success is our success too.

Originally published in The Bendigo Advertiser and The Border Mail.