An urgent intervention is needed in Australia’s education and training system as early as kindergarten to protect future prosperity, one of the nation’s leading business figures warns. The new Business Council of Australia president Catherine Livingstone is calling for a greater emphasis on skills development and education tied to an integrated national plan for economic growth and the national well being it affords. On Monday at an Australia-Israel Chamber of Commerce lunch in Sydney, Ms Livingstone will use her first major speech as BCA president to argue that building innovation infrastructure will ensure a strong and competitive economy in a rapidly changing world. She views better teaching of science, technology, engineering and mathematics as an essential part of this push. Ms Livingstone said individual Australians had to champion education and training for children and adults rather than rely on the government to pave the way. While describing the recent budget as containing valuable initiatives, she expressed concerns about the "unintended consequences" of certain decisions, such as the cuts to high level research having a disproportionate impact on collaborative research programs with business and other institutions. The comments from Ms Livingstone, a member of the PM’s Business Advisory Council and Telstra chair, will be a concern to the government which is struggling to sell its budget. “The linking of training and education to an individual flows right through to business and companies, allowing them to generate wealth and reinvest in Australia," Ms Livingstone said. “Without this drive our competitiveness in a global environment is under threat. “We have been bemoaning the poor state of stem skills (science, technology, engineering and maths) in schools and universities for over 15 years. “There has been tireless agreement that this is an issue. So if we are all agreed that this is an issue why isn’t enough happening? There should be an intervention now.” In May, the country's chief scientist Ian Chubb expressed the view that Australia was a nation without a plan. Nowhere did a policy or a strategy exist that set out this country's vision for the future, and how science and innovation should help achieve that, he said. Scientists and researchers have been angered by cuts to their programs and agencies in the budget. The CSIRO, ANSTO, the Australian Research Council, the Defence Science and Technology Organisation, the Co-operative Research Centres and a few other agencies lost $420 million between them. The government did announce a generous Medical Research Future Fund, but many worry it fails to acknowledge the role basic sciences play in medical discoveries. Australia is one of only three countries in the OECD without a science or innovation strategy, said Professor Chubb. The other two are Portugal and Luxembourg. As a consequence of not having a plan, it is easy for ministers to announce a program one year only to have the next government dismantle it. And it's easy for treasurers to slash cash from an area of research without acknowledging the consequences for another sector. CSIRO chairman Simon McKeon says Australia's problem is that it doesn't aspire to be a clever nation. Ms Livingstone, who is also the chair of the Australian Museum, said Australian education, training and research had to be geared for its strengths such as IT, agriculture, engineering and mining services but also for predicted future job growth, highlighting the forecast that computer occupations will grow by 22 per cent. To meet these needs she said Australia needed better trained teachers or outside expertise in maths and science being brought into schools, as well as introducing computer coding into the curriculum. She called for an overhaul of the Australian Tertiary Admission Rank system, as it conspired against senior high school students taking maths and science at a higher level. - with Nicky Phillips.