A BREAKDOWN in the education-to-employment supply chain must be addressed by managing education and conducting workforce planning, according to Matthew Tukaki, director and head of Government policy organisation SansGov.
In a discussion paper on skills reform, Tukaki told the Victorian State Government and the Australian Government that changes are vital to meet employment demand, particularly in critical areas such as information technology, infrastructure, agriculture and resources.
A contingent loan scheme to assist those wanting to return to or participate in vocational and technical education was one of the recommendations of the report. Tukaki also said there was a need for training provided at both employer and school level to be validated on how it is going to result in employment.
“If the Victorian and Australian Governments are serious about skills reform … then we need to have a look at how we can ‘resupply’ our own labour market, or, alternatively, enter into serious workforce planning to ensure consistent job numbers moving forward,” he said.
International students can no longer be heavily relied on as a source of labour, according to the report, because the number of these students are decreasing at a significant rate and this, in turn, has an impact on the number of skilled graduates who remain in Australia for work once their studies have been completed.
“The fact is [that] more and more international students are deciding to stay home and study and this in itself is a contributor to the breakdown in the education-to-employment supply chain,” he said.
The lure of emerging markets such as India and China is also a threat to our future workforce, with both an exodus of our skilled workers to the area and less workers from Asia willing to come to Australia. “Another important element that cannot be overlooked is the fact that Australia is right on the edge of the fastest-growing economic region in the world,” he said.
“As developing nations develop, as employment growth expands and as real wages increase in our traditional labour supply markets, there is less of an attraction for workers to want to migrate to Australia for jobs. This means that however much we debate the issues of skilled migration or guest worker programs, the simple fact is we cannot rely on consistent labour supply from Asia.”
Global HR services company Drake International has also called for a closer alignment between government and industry to address the essential skills needed in the future.
“Now is the time to develop and implement a national plan where we can jointly tackle the current skills shortage, as well as planning for workforce supply …” said David Edwards, strategic manager for Drake International.
“This is that opportunity to build a single national body that can capture, collate and report on where the demand for skills will emerge, which industries will be most affected or what will be the most sought-after job categories.”
Edwards also said that the Government must identify which sectors are expressing demand, how much future supply can be addressed through the existing labour pool, education and training system, and where new initiatives will be needed. Edwards emphasised the need to work with employers and employees to identify opportunities to retrain and transfer skills from one industry to another.
This need for cross-training and retraining is echoed in the SansGov report, with Tukaki noting that the Australian Government’s approach to training had not yet been adopted because agreements between the States had not been finalised and the cost to business and industry not been agreed on.
He said that the emphasis should now be on getting people into training and validating that the training being provided is going to result in employment.
“This means increasing activity at the employer level and school level –train, cross-train and retrain should be the mantra moving forward,” he said.