Addressing regional workforce challenges

La Trobe University is encouraging Year 12 students selecting courses for next year to consider studying and working locally, as regional Victoria experiences critical skills shortages across health, education, IT and engineering.

Almost one third of advertised job vacancies are in regional Australia, according to recent National Skills Commission (NSC) data. The data shows 309,000 job advertisements nationally of which 91,000 are in the regions.*

La Trobe Vice-Chancellor Professor Dewar AO said students who complete their university studies in regional areas are far more likely to give back to those communities after graduation, than those who relocate to the city.

“We know, for example, that around 82 per cent of our rural health students – studying disciplines like nursing, midwifery, paramedicine, occupational therapy, physiotherapy and exercise science – settle in rural areas after they graduate,” Professor Dewar said.

“That makes a huge difference to regional communities; it means that people don’t have to travel hours to have a baby, or to access treatment when they are unwell – and that there are enough paramedics and nurses to provide urgent care when it’s needed.”

Rural communities are also experiencing a shortage of doctors, which La Trobe is addressing through its end-to-end rural medical pathway program.

As part of the program students complete a three-year Bachelor of Biomedical Science (Medical) degree at La Trobe University’s Bendigo or Albury-Wodonga campus, then a four-year Doctor of Medicine (Rural Pathway) at the University of Melbourne in Shepparton.

Bendigo student Sunny Jijo said receiving an offer to study a Bachelor of Biomedical Science (Medical) at La Trobe’s Bendigo campus, was a dream come true.

“I just love the whole idea behind this program, and I think the best thing about studying locally is that you’re really seen as an individual, not just another number – and you can develop really strong relationships with your classmates and with the lecturers,” Ms Jijo said.

“When I graduate I want to go where ever help is needed most – ultimately I’d love to work as a doctor in Bendigo or Shepparton, but I know other regional places need trained doctors even more.”

Sunny’s mother, an anatomy lecturer also based at La Trobe’s Bendigo campus, Dr Anita Zacharias, said the course being local made it far easier for Sunny to make the decision to apply.

“The program is a perfect fit for Sunny – she’s always been an incredibly caring person and someone who wants to live regionally and give back to the community,” Dr Zacharias said.

“Sunny would not be studying medicine if she wasn’t able to do it here in Bendigo, and we’re both so grateful the opportunity exists to become a doctor without having to move away.”

*Regional Australia Institute, October 2022

Media enquiries: Anna Knight –, 0481 383 817

Image (left to right): Anatomy lecturer Dr Anita Zacharias, first year Biomedical Science (Medical) student Sunny Jijo, Professor John Dewar AO