The Hon. R. SANDERSON (Adelaide—Minister for Child Protection) (15:47): This month, the Marshall Liberal government released the South Australian Women's Leadership and Economic Security Strategy 2021-24 as part of our commitment to ensuring that South Australia is leading from the front in opportunities for women. As the member for Adelaide, I am excited by the opportunities for women all around the city and in my electorate, and this strategy will guide our work in driving this into the future.
The South Australian economy continues to perform strongly. In July, we had the largest drop in unemployment in the nation, to 4.7 per cent, the lowest unemployment rate in South Australia for over a decade. In July, 10,661 people were employed, with a record 877,200 people now employed, the largest ever in South Australia. Recently, our female unemployment rate dropped to 4.4 per cent, the lowest level in 13 years.
The seat of Adelaide is already an education hub for women, home to the University of Adelaide, University of South Australia and a campus of Flinders University. Over 60 per cent of enrolments in these universities are females, ensuring we have a strong pipeline of female talent. Interestingly, the University of Adelaide was the first university to admit women, with graduates including the Hon. Dame Roma Mitchell, the Hon. Julia Gillard and our very own the Hon. Vickie Chapman, the first female Attorney-General and Deputy Premier in South Australia.
There is a national focus on programs and initiatives that increase the number of women and girls in trades and training. The Marshall Liberal government is working to build partnerships between government, industry and training providers to support women to make career choices in a wider range of skilled professions. Our Skilling South Australia initiative, which to date has already had more than 44,000 commencements, is focused on building these partnerships so that young people can obtain the skills and qualifications needed to build careers and meet the workforce needs of the industry.
The projects are co-designed with business and industry to support skilled career opportunities and outcomes. The results of this investment have been very significant. In the financial year 2020, compared with 2018, South Australia saw an increase of 22.5 per cent in the number of female apprentices and traineeship commencements.
We know that science, technology, engineering and mathematics—known as STEM fields—continue to be areas under-represented by women. South Australia is rapidly becoming a national centre of innovation and entrepreneurship, especially in the areas of space, defence and high-tech industries.
Lot Fourteen in my electorate is a leading example of how the Marshall Liberal government is driving rapid development in these areas and building the foundations for our economic growth into the future. Increasing women's participation in STEM growth, including the many high-paying jobs it will create, is vital for our state. Ultimately promoting gender diversity across all industries and occupations benefits individuals, as well as workplaces and the community.
We know that ensuring our children and young people are able to consider all career pathways based on their interests and aptitude begins early in their life. From early childhood to secondary school, our education system is equipping students for the 21st century economy. An example of this is the stunning Adelaide Botanic High School. As a member of governing council, I have seen firsthand their strong focus on STEM subjects for students and the transformative way education is delivered.
We are also ensuring all students, no matter their background, are able to share in this future. The STEM Scholarship Program supports under-represented students to study advanced STEM SACE subjects, and in the 2020-21 SACE round, girls made up 78 per cent of the total scholarship holders. These scholarships cover the cost of support to students undertaking these subjects, including tutors, laptops and excursions.
We are providing new opportunities for school students through our VET for School Students policy, which provides improved career, education and vocational pathways to employment for students enrolled in school. Just last week, the Marshall Liberal government announced new funding to support schools to implement VET where government schools will receive top-up funding of $300 for each student or $600 for each eligible student with a school card enrolled in a VET qualification as part of a Flexible Industry Pathway. The ability to complete VET qualifications while studying at school will put more students on the pathway towards long-term employment.