Silicon Valley, Mumbai and … Ballarat.

Twenty-five years ago, IBM Australia joined forces with Federation University Australia to invest in the regional Victorian centre of Ballarat.

IBM Australia’s decision to become the foundation tenant of the university’s Ballarat Technology Park has delivered wide-reaching and lasting benefits for students, staff, industry and the region.

Katrina Troughton, the managing director of IBM Australia and New Zealand, told a recent Strong Australia business forum that regional Australia offered “major opportunities for us to create ecosystems and build out a pipeline of jobs and further economic development as well as innovation for what we need to do’’.

The educational partnership created a new model for producing highly-skilled graduates who begin their career development before completing high school.

IBM’s Ballarat Client Innovation Centre lead Pearl Myers, who manages the program in Ballarat, said working with students early on gave them solid foundations for their careers.

“We have worked very closely with Federation University to develop and produce what I would consider to be almost ground-breaking educational impact.”

“We deliver a pipeline of career-ready graduates in IT and in business. Our programs start with secondary school students from Year 10 who participate in the P-TECH Program,’’ Ms Myers said.

IBM Australia’s partnership with Federation University has also influenced how the organisation approaches skills and training.

Ms Troughton said enabling students to get hands-on skills was important as the company looked forward. “Cyber, skills and cloud computing are going to be fundamental as part of our recovery and in high demand,” she added.

Business Council of Australia chief executive Jennifer Westacott told the Strong Australia webinar that if Australia is to “realise our full potential as a nation, we must realise the full potential of our regions’’.

“To realise our full potential as a nation, we must realise the full potential of our regions.’’ - Jennifer Westacott, chief executive Business Council of Australia

“This means generating hundreds and thousands of jobs doing more than just talking about opportunities,’’ she said. “Now is the time to put the policies in place that will enable the regions to fully play their part in Australia's economic and social recovery from the ravages of COVID-19.”

IBM is one of the largest regional services employers in Australia, employing 500 people in Ballarat.

Federation University Executive Director of Technology Parks Jeff Pulford values the long-standing partnership with IBM.

“There's a lot of trust, and there's a lot of reliance on each other about how we will support the partnership. This model has paved the way in the industry with the Ballarat Tech Park now hosting 2,200 private-sector jobs with organisations like Concentrix, Serco, Ballarat Health Services,” Mr Pulford said.

In 25 years, the partnership has led to the growth from one to four technology parks. They generate about $700 million annually of total economic impact, employ more than 2,200 people and host 64 businesses including the IBM IT services centre.

“These are very large regional employers and each of those are utilising a model around student placements that was originally developed through the IBM partnership,’’ Mr Pulford said.

“What we're doing is deploying that model of an industry-partnership-developed qualification to support industries in regional centres that might not otherwise be able to be there if they didn't have that skills partnership.’’

The Strong Australia Network is made up of people who all want a stronger and better Australia. The Network was created by the Business Council of Australia to better engage with regional communities, and work on solutions to some of the challenges faced by our regions. To learn more about the network visit: https://www.strongaustralia.net/get-involved

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