STEM-ming Adelaide's brain drain

In 1995, New York child psychiatrist once said that “children are a nation’s greatest resource.” This quote is now more relevant than ever in the internet age. 

Today, I attended a meeting at the Innovation and Collaboration Centre here in Adelaide with South Australia’s “Chief Entrepreneur” Andrew Nunn. There were many discussions from local start ups on the challenges they face from skilled migrant visas, lab support and the future of manufacturing. 


IT support founder Samantha Glocker (Liquorice) emphasised South Australia’s manufacturing past and why the industry must collaborate with the artificial intelligence and automation industries.

The response from Andrew Nunn was, that we need to change the perception around manufacturing jobs and encourage children to study STEM subjects. Andrew is proposing projects within the education system to reduce the school drop out rate and prepare young people for the jobs of the future (in Adelaide the retention rate from years 10 to 12 are consistently less than 80%– for reasons which are not clear).

As a child psychiatrist I see young people who struggle to fit into the mainstream school system and find comfort in the online world. Therefore, I see many referrals from GPs for children who are school refusing. When I ask them what these children are doing all day, they tell me that they are either playing video games or watching videos streamed over the internet.

I often refer a paper from Princeton with young people which highlighted that over the past few decades young men in their 20s have reduced their time in the workforce by 40% and increased their gaming time by 60%. When young people hear this alarming statistic, I can often see the penny drop.

Is this the future young people really want for themselves?

It’s an important discussion and I hope I can play a part to help young people realise their full potential in real life, not on some online leader board in an online game. The loss of young people to the online world is the “brain drain” of our generation and I’m interested to see what programs can be created in Adelaide to prevent the loss of our greatest resource, our children.