SIMON BIRMINGHAM: Lucy Wicks has brought me to the region today. Lucy has been telling me for quite some time now about the wonderful coding programme that is operating here and it is great to be able to see this in action. It is an example of many different coding and STEM initiatives that are happening around Australia and it is really critical that we see programmes like this rolled out in schools to give students the capacity to learn about coding and technology in a way that teaches them, not just how to use or play on phones and applications, but actually how it is that these things are developed and give them the interest that hopefully encourages them in to further study in to the jobs of the future.

QUESTION: You did kind of touch on it there, but why is it that so important, I guess, to provide this kind of training?

SIMON BIRMINGHAM: Around 75 per cent of the fastest growing jobs involve some type of science, technology or engineering skills. So, it is essential that children develop an interest and stick with the study of science and technology and maths through their schooling and that’s why we’ve, over the last term, updated the national curriculum to make sure that coding is part of the national curriculum and is supporting different STEM based initiatives right around the country which included initiatives to encourage more coding in our schools.

OK. So, some of the concepts discussed – they were, you know, quite advanced for children of this age. I guess, have you been impressed with how students in this region have grasped on to the concept?

SIMON BIRMINGHAM: Children really do take like ducks to water when it comes to explaining how technology is used and how technology creates applications and things that they see in their day to day lives and what we have seen here is that you can bring maths and science principles in to a lesson on coding so that it has really practical outcomes for the children, not just in a technology sense, but also advancing their knowledge elsewhere.

QUESTION: I understand you’ve also been in our other seat today, tell me about that.

SIMON BIRMINGHAM: I had the pleasure of having some business leaders together at the high school earlier today where we were talking about the need to really ensure we have that strong connection between local business and employers and secondary schools to really create a broader horizon for children in terms of their understanding and knowledge about the type of different career paths that are available. Looking at some of the vocational education programmes that are offered in the school which create different pathways for children as they finish their schooling directly in to apprenticeships and careers and job opportunities.

QUESTION: Can we expect any announcements around that in the lead up to the election?

SIMON BIRMINGHAM: We’re absolutely having a look at ways in which we can further strengthen that connectivity between schooling and business and as a government we have instigated some trials and pilots elsewhere in the country which are connecting companies like IBM to local high schools, giving students that direct exposure of job opportunities that exist post school and I hope that we can deliver more of that in the future.

QUESTION: Can we expect you visiting the region again before the election?

SIMON BIRMINGHAM: You never know your luck in terms of the chance to be able to come and visit again. I certainly hope to be back before the election and certainly I am eager to support local schools and their commitment to deliver things for their students whether it is coding in the schools or whether it is ties to local businesses.