Australia’s National Workforce Development Strategy – future focus?

Share This Post

Watch this video (approx. 8 minutes) or read the blog post below.

The Australian Workforce and Productivity Agency recently published the much awaited Future focus, 2013 National Workforce Development Strategy.

Australia national pic

Philip Bullock, AWPA Chair launched the strategy with an emphasis on adaptive capability, at the University of Western Sydney, Parramatta campus, in New South Wales and The Hon Chris Bowen MP responded to AWPA’s presentation of its second National Workforce Development Strategy, Future Focus.

Referred to as the ‘second’ National Workforce Development Strategy it builds upon the Australian Workforce Futures: A National Workforce Development Strategy released in March 2010, although I saw this document more as broad aspirational statements with recommendations rather than a workforce development strategy.

Four scenarios were developed to guide the strategy and planning out to 2025 – I’d suggest the scenario that seems to be emerging now includes elements of each.

Perhaps a fifth scenario, that has significant structural adjustment, low short term growth, signalling of a move to a broader based economy, and maybe not economic shocks but slides or stalling.  Another element is the impact of economic change in Asia and Australia’s ability to take advantage, (especially small and medium sized enterprises), of these new markets and the need for digital capability to thrive.  The scenario could be described as “Survival of the fittest – adapt, collaborate, diversify, niche or die!”

Deloitte Access Economics undertook Economic modelling of skills demand and supply projecting industry employment and occupational growth by each scenario with a note that, “… the labour force modelling has been undertaken in far greater detail than summarised here.  For each scenario they have developed employment projections at both the 3-digit ANZSIC level (for 240 industries) and 4-digit ANZSCO level (for 366 occupations) for each State and Territory.”

In terms of qualification profile the Deloitte report makes the following statement,

To assess the future qualification implications of labour market demand, we utilise a profile of the typical qualification mix that is associated with specific industries and occupations.  This represents recent information on average propensities to hold qualifications – in most cases these are not necessarily a strict requirement in order to undertake a particular job.  Recent data is drawn from the ABS Survey of Education and Work while qualification profile at the more detailed industry and occupational levels utilise information from the 2006 Census. (p. iv)

I have 2 main questions:

1. Does the economic modelling make the assumption that an occupation = 1 qualification?

2. Shouldn’t the qualifications profile focus on the future skills required out to 2025 over information from 2006?

Skills deepening and broadening definitely fits with our experience where skills for ‘current’ (let alone future jobs) job roles are regularly proven to be at least 2-3 qualifications worth of competencies or skills across a range of Australian Qualification Framework levels and multiple national Training Packages.  This is a key point raised in the blog on South Australia’s 2012 Skills for Jobs 5 Year Plan.

An important part of matching demand and supply is to identify critical job roles in each scenario, numbers required, what’s likely to happen with supply and the skills profile needed.  In relation to multiple qualification holdings, in the context of a job role or occupation, the highest level qualification may not be the most important, moreover it’s the mix of skills across multiple levels and from different industry areas.  With commentary in the media about an over-educated workforce, skills broadening is the key in my opinion which may not necessarily be formalised.

For all of this forecasting, a driver is confidence in Australian qualifications highlighted by a common lack of requirements for qualifications for [some/many?] job roles and ongoing feedback on the tertiary system.

If you are looking for a quick summary of the strategy read the key messages where the measures to enhance workforce development include:

  • Increasing qualifications to meet growing demand for higher skills
  • Improving productivity in the workplace
  • Building labour force participation to meet current and future needs
  • Raising language, literacy, and numeracy skills
  • Enabling individuals and the tertiary system to be more adaptive
  • Strengthening quality in the tertiary sector
  • Making an investment in skills that will pay for itself.

The points above have featured in Vocational Education and Training, skills and employment plans, programs and policy for a number of years.  I’d highlight individuals and the system being more adaptive and the last point about the link between skills, the job and reward as being a more recent emphasis for AWPA (read keep an eye on how that translates into action).  The question of who invests in skills is raised again but is not answered.

What are the considerations and questions arising from the 2013 National Workforce Development Strategy?

  •  Accuracy with which the economic modelling identifies the demand for qualifications when it is the demand for skills that enterprises, projects, industries and regions describe
  • Australia’s ability to export knowledge and intelligence to the world and Asia in particular (sub set of this is the tertiary systems ability to enable this capability)
  • How is ‘workforce productivity’ defined?
  • What are the critical job roles into the future and the matching skills (and qualifications) profile?
  • Which recommendations relate to workforce wide issues vs. critical job roles?
  • Who needs to undertake workforce planning to identify workforce issues and then design workforce development strategies?  With an Australia wide capability development need in workforce planning and development skills, how could this be addressed?
  • From the modelling, with an increasing (and compounding) demand for qualifications will they be seen as an essential job requirement and who will invest in skills?
  • Do the interchangeable terms skills and qualifications used in the strategy mean the same thing? (I think not)

I endorse the comments in the strategy related to the need for regional, industry and enterprise (including Small and Medium Enterprises) workforce planning and development.

Having recently travelled to countries such as Maldives and Bhutan, where they are developing a National Human Resource Development Roadmap and I provided advice on the draft document, and attending AWPA’s South Australian consultation workshop, I appreciate the work undertaken by the board and staff together with stakeholders in building a National Workforce Development Strategy.

Thank you, I look forward to your feedback on this blog and engaging with AWPA for the implementation of the strategy.

PS. A supplementary, ‘VET view on Australia’s National Workforce Development Strategy’ post will be published soon via the WPAA blog.

Written by Wendy Perry, Head Workforce Planner, Workforce BluePrint, 13.3.13.

UPDATE: Here’s a quick video note on AWPA’s response to our blog.

Subscribe To Our newsletter

behind the scenes

More To Explore


Pitch Night

An old school pitch night was held at Stone and Chalk Adelaide at Lot 14 on a chilly night with 100+ people where The Hon