Looking past the credit crunch

by 11 Nov 2008

WHILE THE finance sector is feeling the brunt of the economic downturn and other industries such as retail, real estate and manufacturing are increasingly vulnerable, demand for skilled professionals is still strong in industries such as engineering, mining, health care and education.

“It’s not all bad news,” said Campbell Sallabank, CEO of LinkMe.com.au. “While employers are cautious, many are still hiring and certain industries are poised for growth.”

With economists predicting that Australia’s jobless rate will exceed 1 million by 2010, Australian bankers are returning from overseas positions where the finance sector is already in freefall.

This, combined with the uncertainty of job security, is pushing the number of jobseekers in the finance and banking industry to record highs, according to Sallabank.

He said that employers having trouble filling specific skill sets must broaden their search and hiring requirements to encourage people to transfer to sectors that remain healthy.

Riges Younan, a seasoned executive recruiter, said the current economic downturn is very different to those of the past, with unique factors influencing the employment market that will make it harder – not easier –to find skilled technical people.

“Those who may have been hoping for an end to the war for talent will be disappointed,” Younan said. “Demographic factors, social media, resource demand from China and India and the allure of the burgeoning Middle East will all keep contributing to the skills shortage here in Australia.”

“We are losing engineers, technicians, programmers and other skilled professionals at a much faster rate than we are replacing them,”Younan said.

Locally, he said increased government funding in IT and infrastructure, the mining sector and strong global demand for energy will keep demand for skilled people strong.

David Bell of Human Capital Management Solutions said employers who put their recruitment strategy on hold due to a slowing economy risk failing to fill their critical roles when the storm calms.

The time is ripe for employers to take advantage of a wavering job market and identify talent now which they can call on later, he said. “Most companies only recruit for what they need today, however, given the current volatile market conditions, employers should be using this time to attract talent that other employers may not be able to hang onto,” Bell said.

“The reality is, organisations will always have critical roles – regardless of where the market is heading. An unexpected departure or sudden demand for critical skills could significantly impact a business’s continuity and performance.”

As labour market challenges such as the demand for skills and an ageing population continue to apply pressure to our future workforce, Bellsaid companies need to safeguard themselves against the loss of critical skills by developing a pipeline of quality candidates.

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