Employers and HR professionals have long since felt the raw end of the skills shortage, and according to a new report it’s only going to get worse.
Regardless of future economic conditions, Australia’s demand for highly skilled professionals will far outweigh supply leaving HR squarely in the lurch. According to a report from the new federal body, the Australian Workforce and Productivity Agency, the skills shortage is being perpetuated by two key failings. Firstly, not enough young people are gaining tertiary qualifications, and secondly, organisations have severely scaled back youth-training programs.
The report, Australia's Skills and Workforce Development Needs, was compiled by looking at four hypothetical scenarios for Australia’s economic future. The scenarios ranged from a prolonged resources boom, to the effects on Australia if the world faces continued political and economic disorder.
Critically it was found that under all proposed future scenarios, post-school qualifications, and especially those at professional level, will mean a shortfall of up to 280,000 by 2025. Put another way, the population with post-school qualifications will need to increase from less than 60% now to between 65 and 75% by 2025. Investment in tertiary education will need to increase by at least 3% a year to meet the demand.
Yet productivity agency CEO Robin Shreeve said it wasn’t only a matter of “cranking out more qualifications”. “It’s also important to think about how firms use their people,” he said. The report said that companies seek fully trained and experienced workers and were not prepared to hire young people and train them. “Today firms no longer play the significant role they once did in training new recruits. Cadetships and internships have been wound back, further reducing opportunities for entry-level work,” the report said. In striving for efficiency, entry-level positions have been significantly scaled back to the point of firms shooting themselves in the foot.
Commenting on the creation of the new agency, which replaced the former advisory body Skills Australia, the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry chief said matching skills to available jobs and increasing workforce participation is a crucial piece of Australia’s productivity future.
The agency is currently seeking feedback on the issues raised in the report, and responses will underpin the next national workforce development strategy, which is due to be published in November. Submissions must be received by August 27.
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