Australia Needs Another 280,000 Skilled Workers by 2025

Over the past week alone a mixture of Clients, colleagues and mates have shared with me their troubles with the ongoing talent shortage in Australia. These gaps range from a lack of cleaners, lorry drivers, bar staff and beauty therapists, through to critical HR and business related roles. And yes Recruiters and Talent Acquisition Specialists were very much top of that list!

It was timely therefore to read the following article in the AFR by Jacob Greber from a couple of weeks ago, highlighting the sheer magnitude of the talent shortage we are facing in this country right now. Specifically the article focuses on the talent shortage in tech, and that as a country we need to source a mere 280,000 skilled workers in the next 3 years!

It got me thinking about the challenges all businesses face around their people gaps and what they are doing to solve for this issue. Allowing flexible working is an obvious one, but also investing in learning and capability functions to enable staff to retrain is surely an inevitable area of growth in People & Culture teams.

Whatever the solution, the problem still remains for now. Savvy businesses over the next few years will be doing everything in their power to support and foster the staff they have, creating an environment that people want to work in. With the number of jobs on the market, and an increasing belief that 2022 is and will be an employee-driven year, solidifying the foundation of what you already have may to be the place to start.

Australia’s near-insatiable need for foreign skilled workers could be alleviated by allowing students to stay longer than two years, as well as creating more flexible office practices made possible by the pandemic, said three top human resources tech specialists.

With around 860,000 people in the country engaged in some kind of technology job – a figure set to rise to one million by 2025 and 1.2 million by 2030 – software engineering is now a more common job than hairdressing or plumbing, said Tech Council of Australia chief executive office Kate Pounder.

Accounting for retirements, that means the country needs 280,000, of which around half can come from retraining, with the rest coming from newly-trained workers as well from migration, she said.

“I know there’s been a lot of discussion about skill shortages,” Ms Pounder told The Australian Financial Review Business Summit. “But the thing about solving these jobs is that it solves problems across the economy.”

Preeti Bajaj, chief executive of Adecco Group’s Australian business, urged Australian policymakers and companies to think of skills training as an investment that would deliver a return.

That would enable investors to fund reskilling, in return for tax offsets, which would ultimately be funded via higher wages that governments will tax.

“I encourage every CEO and every chief human resources officer in our country to think about this,” Ms Bajaj said.

Having experienced skilled migration firsthand, Ms Preeti said, “speed is of the essence”.

Preeti also said there should be more options for permanent settlement, instead of bringing in skilled workers only to send them back overseas.

“I urge the leaders of the business world to ask our government to change,” she says.

Dominic Price, work futurist at Atlassian, said remote working opened a huge new talent pool for the fast-growing 20-year-old company, which doubled in size over the past 18 months.

“That wasn’t doubling hiring around a small sphere of Sydney,” Mr Price said. “That was hiring across the world because we’ve opened up what used to feel like borders.”

“And I think if we can do that with education, as well as hiring, you get that diversity of talent.”

Mr Price said that the experience of the past two years has convinced him that flexibility in workplaces needs to be continued.

“I have never advocated, and nor will I ever advocate, for fully remote work.”

But employers need to think about how “do you enable people to build their own adventure, so that we get the right time together when we want, and we have the time apart to do our deep work”.

“It’s not actually a young versus old. It’s more of a mindset thing,” he said.

Rather than dictate days of office work per week, Atlassian, he said, organises at least four times a year for the company to bring staff together for non-work activities.

Those activities, which might include team building, bonding and development, will mean “people can go and live where they want to and live their best life and be a great colleague”.

“And so we can still do that and learn and develop and grow that minimum of four times a year doesn’t mean that all of our staff spend 256 days of the year at home and then come in four days a year.

“It means ‘you do you’, but we’ve got some people who are coming in five days a week.”

“For me, I find one or two days a week, some weeks and other weeks. I’m like home is good, right? I’m way more effective at home. Other weeks I need to be in the office.

“It’s not about telling me how I should work and making that consistent every single week of the year because work isn’t that consistent.

“So if we trust our knowledge workers, we trust our humans, build your adventure with some boundaries.

“The sooner we get rid of this construct, that Brenda physically being at her desk means Brenda’s working, that construct is outdated.”