Are we capturing all the talent we have in Australia?

A new TV documentary series, Models of Achievement, showcases Australians from Greater Western Sydney (GWS) who have not only changed their lives through higher education but are making some remarkable contributions to the country's future. But are some people being left behind?

With an impending shortage of people with higher education in the Australian workforce to meet future economic targets, it's important that all Australians are empowered to consider higher education as an option for the future.

Bridges to Higher Education has funded Television Sydney to produce the series to showcase the remarkable transformation tertiary study can bring to an individual's life, family and the nation.

The series is a Bridges to Higher Education initiative - a partnership of five NSW universities and 15 other education partners working together to develop and deliver projects to improve academic outcomes and higher education participation rates, particularly in Greater Western Sydney - is making great progress nurturing future talent working from the grassroots level in primary schools all the way through to TAFE and university graduation.

GWS, named the 'Innovation Region' by the government as part of their Plan for Australian Jobs is home to over 1.6 million people and contributes $85 billion a year to the nation's GDP - if population growth continues in this area as predicted, Greater Western Sydney has the potential to provide a large proportion of Australia's future jobs growth.

"It is vital we continue to work together to maximise opportunities in this region," said Professor Gail Whiteford, Chair of Bridges to Higher Education. "We need to ensure that we capitalise on all the available talent we have in our communities, not only for the benefit of the individual, but for the family, the community and the economy."

By 2018, the demand for people with higher education qualifications will outstrip supply by 22,000 so it is vital that more people see higher education as a possibility. The government and corporate sector will benefit from a more skilled workforce to help develop new products, technologies and deliver the skills and ideas to break into new markets.

"Based on the projected population growth, a 12.2% increase in university students across the Sydney region would be required to reach the government's university participation target of 40%, by 2021; this will not be achieved if we cannot inspire more Australians from GWS to participate in higher education", said Professor Whiteford.

The 10 part documentary series demonstrates the profound change higher education can make on the individual and family and will premiere on Television Sydney (TVS), digital 44, in June. The series explores the success and aspirations of 20 people, both ordinary and extraordinary, who, despite hardships, have gone to university and thrived.

"By showing what these people have achieved we want to demonstrate the different pathways to higher education that are available to all Australians. We know that people from disadvantaged communities are just as able to succeed when they come to university. It is all about your talent and potential, not your background that counts or to put it another way – it is your potential, not your postcode that matters," said Professor Whiteford.

In the series Australians will meet the former Bulldogs player who completed his Masters in commerce, a former child soldier who is now a lawyer, the sheep farmer who survived lymphatic cancer to study law and help children in the juvenile justice system, or the factory worker who cracked a previously unsolvable equation.

7 June 2013

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About Bridges to Higher Education

Bridges to Higher Education is a $21.2m initiative, funded by the Commonwealth Government's Higher Education Participation and Partnerships Program (HEPPP), to improve the participation rates of students from disadvantaged communities in higher education.  Bridges is a partnership to create new aspiration- and attainment-building programs and build on existing programs targeting school-age children and their parents. This innovative project will work with primary and secondary schools and community partners in Greater Western Sydney to engage young people who previously might not have considered higher education as an option. More than 1.8 million people live in the region which has traditionally been under-represented in higher education participation rates.

The Bridges to Higher Education project brings together the collective resources and experience of the widening participation, equity and social inclusion programs at the University of Western Sydney, The University of Sydney, the University of Technology, Sydney, Macquarie University, and the Australian Catholic University. The partnership extends to include NSW DEC, TAFE NSW, the University Admissions Centre, local government organisations, education offices, indigenous organisations and other community, philanthropic and social enterprise organisations.

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