National skills shortage prompts industry action

Changing demographics in Australia’s workforce is a growing concern for thriving industries, and a shortage of skills nationwide has seen many organisations calling for a solution.

The National Skills Commission’s 2022 Skills Priority List found shortages in 286 occupations this year, compared to 153 occupations in 2021. These include nurses, software programers, aged care workers, construction managers and child care workers.

Healthy Heads in Trucks & Sheds (HHTS) has addressed the problem of changing demographics by launching industry-tailored wellbeing resources that have been translated into eight of the most commonly spoken languages other than English in the Australian road transport, warehousing and logistics sector.

The rollout of English as Second Language (EASeL) resources is about making information on looking after wellbeing more accessible and more easily understood for different cultural groups working across the industry, and could see an increase in migration workers due to better working conditions nationwide.

The project has been funded by the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator’s (NHVR) Heavy Vehicle Safety Initiative in partnership with the Federal Government, and it means HHTS’ resources will now be available in English, Hindi, Punjabi, Arabic, Filipino, Vietnamese, Mandarin, Cantonese and Sinhalese.

Another option to solve the issue of skills shortages could be seen by lifting Australia’s migration intake and raising public funding for its apprenticeship system, according to unions and employers nationwide.

The Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) released its Skilling the Nation: Addressing Australia’s skills and migration needs now and into the future report earlier this year, which criticises the former Coalition Government’s lack of management between skilled migration and the Vocational Education and Training (VET) system.

The report called for the reinvigoration of Australia’s TAFE by guaranteeing a minimum of 70 per cent public funding, as well as “repairing almost a decade of damage to our apprenticeship system”.

ACTU explained that during the COVID pandemic, approximately 500,000 temporary migrant workers left Australia. Now that the country is rebuilding its economy, many businesses are claiming an urgent need for gaps in the workforce to be filled by short-term migrant numbers.

As a result, the Jobs & Skills Summit in September saw the Federal Government agree to a $1 billion one-year National Skills Agreement to provide additional funding for fee-free TAFE in 2023 and accelerate the delivery of 465,000 additional fee-free TAFE places.

The Government has also increased Australia’s permanent non-humanitarian migrant intake by 35,000 to 195,000, expanded work rights for international students and committed to clear the backlog of nearly one million visas waiting approval.

Many industries and organisations believe mass importing migrant workers is a solution to Australia’s skills shortages, while changing its current working conditions is another priority for others.

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