Employment key to plans for the future: University of Newcastle students

The choice of whether to leave or stay in the Hunter Region after earning tertiary qualifications ultimately comes down to a simple question, two university students say.

Future plans: University of Newcastle students Olivia Cook and Christy Mullen say finding work in the field they studied would be the driving force behind whether they stay or leave the region. Picture: Jonathan Carroll

That is: will they be able to get a job that requires their new skills without having to move?

Christy Mullen and Olivia Cook both grew up in the Hunter-Lake Macquarie area and are studying at the University of Newcastle.

Ms Mullen, who’s about to start her third year of a Bachelor of Business and Laws, plans to stay and work in the Hunter –or at least in a regional area – after she finishes her studies.

But Ms Cook, who is beginning Honours in Sociology and Anthropology, hopes to move to Victoria to complete her PHD at the University of Melbourne.

Fairfax Media spoke withthe pair to find out what influenced their decisions, after new data showed Newcastle,Lake Macquarie and the Hunter outside Newcastle had relatively low numbers of residents aged between 25 and 34 who had a bachelor degree or higher.

“A lot of my friends in arts and humanities, a lot of what we have to do is go on and do Masters and further education, there are more education opportunities elsewhere for further study,” Ms Cook said.

Ms Mullen said many of her colleagues in the Law faculty aimedto get jobs in Sydney because “the narrative is very much ‘we have to move to Sydney because that’s the only place to get a job’”.

“It does depend on what you’re studying,” she said.

“A lot of my friends who are doing teaching, they want to move west because that’s where the job opportunities are. A lot of my friends who are in engineering are very happy to stay in Newcastle because they think they’ll be able to get a job here as well. Same with health–there’s a lot of health jobs here.

“People don’t want to stay here in sales or hospitality jobs, not using their degrees. It’s as simple as that.”

Ms Cook agreed.“It’s kind of all about where you can get jobs using your degree,” she said. “The last thing I want to do is spend four years doing something I love and then go and work in hospitality.”

Both saidthat, aside from job opportunities, some young people simply felt the need to leave the town they grew up in when they finished their studies.

That’s also at least part ofthe reason behind Ms Cook’s plan to move south.

“I guess, too, if you’ve grown up here some people just want to have a new start somewhere else,” she said.

“I love Newcastle and I love the culture–it’s something that I would return to probably when I’m older. I’ll be 22 when I finish my Honours–as a 22-year-old I want something new and I want something different.

“If I can move to a different city and do further education then that kind of does both things for me.”