The statistics are fascinating, with 9.2 per cent of industries being directly involved in educational and training services which are larger than our construction sector (8 per cent).The biggest sector is the health and support service industry which makes up 15.3 percent of Coast businesses compared to the state average of 12 percent.

With our natural beauty here on the Sunshine Coast and great lifestyle, it’s easy to see why so many families want to call the Coast home. However, people still need jobs, services and good education for their children and all of these are coming together in a serendipitous way that bodes well for confidence in the future.

I was so lucky to grow up here on the Coast because my folks saw a huge opportunity in this stunningly beautiful area and moved their young brood here. I know that a large part of their decision was based on their children having access to schools and universities.

The schools were good and while universities were a bit down the road in Brisbane in those days, my parents had a vision we would have our own university on the Sunshine Coast one day and played a part in seeing that happen.

The Coast has grown up a lot since I was a barefoot kid at Yandina Primary School and so has our education sector. The University of the Sunshine Coast is now 20 years old and is a jewel in our region’s crown with some pretty impressive graduates and expanding courses. The handful of state high schools and private schools from my childhood have grown and vocational education is diverse and accessible. More Sunshine Coast high school leavers than ever before gain post-school qualifications right here on the Coast.
What does this surge in first-class educational opportunities mean for the Coast and those who want to grow their businesses, whether they are directly involved in education or not?

This sector has been one of the most transformative in the last two decades, not only as an attractor to parents who choose the Sunshine Coast to raise their children and relocate their jobs and businesses here.

It has also deepened and added value to the Coast’s economic base with a more diversely trained workforce and businesses which link directly into the research and global connections of our university.

A fortuitous combination of all three sectors – education, construction, and health – is currently boosting jobs in an unparalleled way on the Coast by way of the $1.8 billion Sunshine Coast University Hospital, opening in April 2017. Our new hospital, together with the university, present opportunities in spades for brilliant new jobs, and higher level health services will be available to people closer to their home. Critically, this helps local people access higher education (or tailored professional development) to turn lifelong learning into economic outcomes and see more of these jobs based on the Coast rather than having to work in a capital city.

Instead of being daunted by talk that the average Australian will have 17 jobs over their lifetime, with five different careers, we can have a “seize the day” attitude and embrace the opportunities on our doorstep. Lifetime learning, whether it’s through formal professional development or a questioning mind that seeks better solutions, is part of that journey of growing better businesses.

Hats off to the University of the Sunshine Coast, which years ago recognised the need to help a business succeed, and established the business incubator at the Innovation Centre.
My vision for the Sunshine Coast being known as the leading region for lifestyle and health isn’t a pipedream, it’s good business. And a growing education sector adds immense value to the businesses that the Sunshine Coast is nurturing and staffing.

Fiona Simpson is the Queensland Member for Maroochydore.