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International education boosts community and economy 

11 Jul International education boosts community and economy 

OPINION: I spoke last week at the Christchurch and Canterbury International Education Conference 2017 about the value of international education and its critical importance for our region’s future.

A high
value education needs more than high quality facilities, however, and
Canterbury is proving attractive to international students because of the
added value we provide them.

There is a
high degree of trust involved in overseas families sending their young people
to our schools and universities.

They’re
not just trusting they will receive a good formal education.

They’re
trusting that we will nurture their young people, support their integration,
help them embrace new experiences and opportunities.

The strong
sense of community engagement and welcoming spirit that developed in the
aftermath of the quakes has created a reputation for Christchurch as a
caring, welcoming community.

The way we
responded also created an environment of innovation, an ability to embrace
change, and a resilience to thrive.

These are
the sort of skills that businesses and other employers look for – 21st
century skills our young people need to succeed in whatever career they
choose.

The
cultural diversity and different perspectives our international students
bring enhances the experience of our Kiwi born students, the wider community,
and our businesses and other employers, delivering significant benefits all
round.

One
striking statistic underscores the importance of the international education
sector in developing the learners and leaders we need to contribute to our
future prosperity.

Over the
next 15 years we’re expecting to lose 72,500 workers in Canterbury as baby
boomers move into retirement.

We know
that technological disruption will massively impact the economy in coming
years and result in some jobs disappearing, but we’re going to need a lot
more smart, skilled people, the kind of thinkers who will enable us to
continue to drive the economic development already underway.

We need to
develop and maintain a strong pipeline of talented, energetic leaders of the
future.

Migration
is an important means of filling this gap, and one of the best ways to
attract the people with the skills, thinking and approach we need is through encouraging
and supporting international education.

Migrants
tend to move to countries they are familiar with, and countries in which they
have felt welcomed and valued.

International
education became New Zealand’s fourth largest industry in 2015, worth around
$4 billion to the national economy.

In
Canterbury we’re welcoming around 11,000 students annually, the majority from
China and India and significant numbers also from Japan and South Korea.

The
economic impact of those students in 2015 was $291million, supporting 2,430
jobs, and we’re working hard to ensure those figures continue to grow.

Christchurch’s
challenge is to work together to continue to attract and retain international
students who benefit from being here and in turn benefit the city and region.

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