First NAIF build off the blocks
THE Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility has finally signed off on its first project for Queensland and largest financial loan to date - a $96 million bid to attract more young people to the resources sector.
Northern Australia Minister Matt Canavan will today announce a $96 million loan for James Cook University to build a hi-tech Technology Innovation Complex designed to attract more engineering students across a range of specialities, to keep talent in the north.
Ageing buildings at the almost 50-year-old university will be eclipsed by the new complex, which will be used by students as well as researchers, industry partners and start-up businesses.
The move comes after recent studies by Mining Education Australia warned of a looming critical shortage of mining engineering graduates.
These suggest that, nationwide, enrolments have dropped from 307 students in 2008, at the height of the mining boom, to just 32 this year.
The JCU complex will be the first project approved by the NAIF for Queensland and the largest loan issued to date, subject to state agreement.
Senator Canavan said while the new facility was not specifically for mining engineering, it would help attract young people into the resources sector.
"The most direct way to meet this regional skills shortage is to train people in the regions and this facility can do that," he said.
"More engineers will help support our coal and mineral sectors.
"We have built our mining sector by harnessing the efforts of some of the world's best engineers trained here in Australia. This new facility will help us repeat that success in the future."
Labor has been critical of the cost of running the NAIF, with staffing costs topping $3 million each year, for little output in its first two years of operation.