Potential for Australia to be a world leader in quantum technology through education and by including minority groups
Standards Australia and the University Technology Sydney (UTS) have launched a whitepaper on Quantum Education, Training and Literacy which highlights gaps in the number of experts available in the field, the pipeline of talent, and the lack of government support for the training of the future quantum technology workforce.
The whitepaper challenges the perception that Quantum Physics is something only geniuses can understand, arguing that this myth will have to be overturned, if quantum technologies are to become viable as a major industry. It also discusses ways to broaden the reach and scope of quantum literacy in the community.
The report argues that the goal must be to ramp up the uptake of Quantum by engaging with currently under-represented groups such as women and First Nations peoples, and introducing core concepts in STEM much earlier in schools.
The whitepaper reports that global demand for quantum talent is outpacing training capacity.
In the local context, Australia will need to expand PhD training by 3-5 times by 2040. This is based on the premise that CSIRO’s predictions for the future growth of the quantum industry requires the recruitment of approximately 4,000 relevantly trained PhD students in the next 16 years.
To build a healthy pipeline of talent in the longer term, the whitepaper recommends revising existing curricula and targeting pre-tertiary educational institutions such as high schools and primary schools.
Author of the whitepaper and UTS Associate Professor Nathan Langford says: “Australia’s skills needs are growing and changing fast, with industry needs evolving and requiring skills and knowledge that cross the boundaries of our education sectors.”
A/Prof Langford added: “The best and arguably only way to address this impending skills and knowledge shortage facing Australia’s quantum landscape is to tap into groups that are currently under-represented in many areas of STEM higher education, primarily women and minority or disadvantaged groups.”
The whitepaper discusses topics which are crucial to three of five themes of the recently announced Australian Federal Government National Quantum Strategy
With this as a backdrop, Standards Australia and UTS have identified four areas that that should be addressed to boost the growth of quantum technologies. These areas are:
- Quantum Literacy: Quantum literacy in wider society must grow significantly for quantum technologies to be able to match the impact of digital technologies. Despite the success of quantum physics, its mystique hinders broader understanding and education in the area.
- Quantum Education: Simultaneously, strong expansion in quantum workforce training necessitates significant growth in academic research and teaching resources. Diversity and accessibility in the quantum industry are essential components to support its growth.
- Quantum Standards and Education: Standards organisations should support quantum education and training to help develop a broad training pipeline, to foster communication in the quantum industry, and help build public trust for paradigm-shifting new technologies.
- Quantum Ethics: Quantum ethics is gaining attention, serving as a segue to foster responsible innovation, with opportunities for early targets in sustainable development and ethical funding.
The likely solution to the potential ‘quantum workforce shortfall’ lies in addressing the key challenges outlined above, expanding opportunities in quantum education that would involve cross-disciplinary training and embedding quantum concepts in undergraduate programs and introducing its concepts in primary school and high school.
Estimates from CSIRO’s economic analysis predict that the quantum technology industry will be of great economic benefit to Australia. By 2040, CSIRO’s employment project estimates that the workforce within Quantum will eclipse 16,000 people, growing to over 19,000 by 2045 - an estimate which may end up being highly conservative, especially if compared with other projections for quantum ecosystem growth internationally.
Even the CSIRO projections appear to far exceed the existing capacity in our local quantum education and training pipeline, exposing a significant pipeline shortage not unique to Australia, and one that urgently needs to be addressed, today.
Co-author of the whitepaper and Associate Professor at UTS, Simon Devitt echoes this sentiment. He says, “In the medium term, a significant shift in how we integrate quantum information science into the curricula of traditional degrees in physics, mathematics, computer science, engineering and chemistry, could increase the number of undergraduate students receiving quantum training and thus incentivise higher levels of faculty recruitment at the university level.”
He adds: “Ultimately, achieving large growth in the quantum training pipeline will also require early interventions at secondary and primary school levels in the way that and when core STEM units are introduced.”
Adam Stingemore - Standards Australia General Manager, Engagement and Communications - says: “Unleashing the power of quantum technology requires a united front. Standards Development Organisations and educators can join forces to bridge the quantum gap. Championing standards, engaging stakeholders and upholding ethics are the cornerstones of building trust in ground-breaking technologies like Quantum.”
Click here to read the whitepaper.
Media Contact: Zarinah Kader
Senior Communications Officer
02 9237 6165