Invest in coding education, says Labor

Bill Shorten calls for software development and digital technologies to be core subjects for students

Labor leader Bill Shorten has used his budget reply to call for increased investment in STEM education, including software development.

“Coding is the literacy of the 21st Century,” Shorten said last night in his speech.

“Resource booms come and as we discover, they go – but our future depends on investing in our best natural resource: the creativity and skills of the Australian people,” the Labor leader said.

“Digital technologies, computer science and coding – the language of computers and technology – should be taught in every primary and ever secondary school in Australia. And a Shorten Labor Government will make this a national priority.

“We will work with states, territories and the national curriculum authority to make this happen.”

A Labor government would invest in training more science and tech graduates to be teachers, he said, as well as write-off the HECS debt of 100,000 science technology, engineering and maths students.

The HECS plan would involve 20,000 students over five years having their debt written off after graduation.

Under Labor’s plan, coding would be taught in every primary and secondary school and become a core part of the national curriculum.

Read more: NeCTAR gets $4.9m from government

Startup sector

The Labor leader said it would establish a scheme called Start-Up Finance to help startup businesses source investment.

“Labor will work with the banks and finance industry to establish a partial guarantee scheme, StartUp Finance, to help more Australians convert their great ideas into good businesses,” Shorten said.

In addition, Labor would create a $500 million Smart Investment Fund that will “partner with venture capitalists and fund managers to invest in early stage and high potential companies.”

Read more: 2015 budget wrap-up

Advocacy group StartupAUS earlier welcomed many of the Coalition government’s measures in the budget to support small business but said it had failed to address many of the key issues facing tech-focussed startups in Australia.

There is a lack of investment in STEM education in Australia and in 'soft infrastructure' to support the startup ecosystem, StartupAUS said.

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