For a bank with a super-regional focus like ANZ the benefits of the New Colombo Plan are clear - cultivating a pipeline of talent with a regional mindset is essential to our success.
ANZ will be participating in the New Colombo Plan's internship program, rolling out the pilot in Singapore, Hong Kong and China. Students with a particular interest in banking and commerce will have the opportunity to experience real-life professional situations and gain insight into what it's like to work for ANZ in the region.
But it's not just ANZ who will reap the benefits. Let me share four reasons why I think the New Colombo Plan is a great initiative.
BOOSTING AUSTRALIA'S ASIA-CAPABLE WORKFORCE
With Asia's status as the world's growth engine firmly established, it's more important than ever for us to better engage with our nearest neighbours. The New Colombo Plan will be vital in developing the pipeline of future leaders with the skills and connections needed to successfully do business in Asia.
It will help students better understand how Asia ticks. It will thicken the weave of relationships between people who are from, what are at times, starkly different cultures.
The New Colombo Plan will give students the chance to develop lasting connections and relationships, but importantly it will give them a unique understanding of how things are done in Asia.
Put simply, Asian capability is a clear competitive advantage for business. A recent AsiaLink taskforce chaired by ANZ CEO Mike Smith found the higher the proportion of leaders who have cultural training, speak an Asian language or have lived and worked in Asia for more than three months, the more likely business performance will exceed expectations.
It makes good business sense to employ people who actually understand a market in which you are trying to grow. At ANZ, the pilot program will support our existing recruitment activities and act as a feeder of high calibre graduate talent.
In years to come we will look back on the New Colombo Plan as an investment made not just in a generation of students but in Australia's future.
When young people from across the Asia-Pacific came and studied in Australia as part of the original plan it engendered generations of goodwill towards our country - this will be no different.
Through the New Colombo Plan, Australia will create a steady flow of Asia-literate ambassadors who are familiar with the region, and who are likely to become the future community, business and political leaders of this country.
To make a meaningful shift in the capabilities of our nation's workforce we need a coordinated plan involving Government, business and academia.
It's come down to a question of leadership, and it's needed from each of these sectors in order to achieve real change.
Minister Bishop should be applauded for the extraordinary vision and commitment in championing this significant initiative which will pay dividends for decades to come as we deepen regional ties for the next 40 years.
The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade should be commended for the speed and coordination effort in ensuring the roll out of this program at rapid pace.
It's ambitious, but there is no doubt in my mind that the New Colombo Plan will leave a legacy ensuring our next generation of leaders are well placed to engage and capitalise on Asia's rise.
Suzette Corr is Group General Manager Talent & Culture and General Manager HR Australia at ANZ and a member of the New Colombo Plan Reference Group.
For further information go to www.dfat.gov.au/new-colombo-plan