Northern Territory: Jobs available and shortages of skilled workers

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Australia is currently experiencing some of the worst unemployment rates it’s seen in many years.

As unemployment rates surged to the highest rate Australia had seen in 12 years of 6.4% earlier on this year, the federal government are seeing a rise in stretched social service resources, more Australians buckling under the high cost of living, and skilled workers being left to fend for themselves.

In some areas of the country, universities are experiencing an enormous overflow of young, talented, educated and skilled graduates, with not nearly enough jobs to go around, particularly in the fields of law, nursing and education.

Conversely, the Northern Territory (NT) have a range of jobs available, with a shortage of skilled workers to fill them.  In 2005, there was a marked shortage of occupations within the Northern Territory.

Businesses from across the territory made a request for the NT Department of Business to develop a labour market analysis, and as a result, developed a skilled occupation priority list, which is now updated every year.

According to the skilled occupation priority list documentation, the list and associated committee highlighted that workforce planners were needed as a guide or informant to oversee the following:

  • Northern Territory Government decisions on how training funding should be allocated and the allocation of employer incentives for apprentices.
  • The targeting of skills in the Territory’s national workforce attraction programs.
  • Strategic workforce planning by business and industry.
  • A future focus for career counsellors in schools to inform students of potential career opportunities.
  • The development and delivery of courses by Northern Territory universities and registered training organisations.
  • The targeting of qualified overseas workers to address skills shortages through skilled migration schemes.

For 2015, the skilled occupation list outlined large areas of demand for nurses and healthcare workers, childcare workers, educators, managers, engineers and project/case managers.  More than 50% of the occupations listed required a bachelor’s degree or higher.


Currently, the Department of Business’ Training NT division, the VET sector and Business and Community Developments Pty Ltd are developing a workforce development strategy to address the lack of skilled workers and occupation shortages.

“The development of the strategy has seen strong collaboration between VET stakeholders, Training NT and the consultants.  The purpose of the strategy is to identify and address the Northern Territory VET sector workforce priorities, to ensure we can grow a skilled and flexible workforce.  The strategy’s action plans will position the Northern Territory’s VET sector to produce high quality training delivery and assessment services and skilled graduates to help employers build their workforce capability.”  

NT Department of Business

Current workforce planning incorporates a blend of strategy to include upskilling local workers, and attracting international talent to the territory.  Migration NT aims to encourage more international workers to the territory, as well as facilitating links between employers, migration skill programs, and workers.

Local upskilling includes the Indigenous Workforce Participation Initiatives Program (IWPIP). IWPIP aims to increase workforce participation for Indigenous Territorians by assisting industry and business, including the not-for-profit sector, to plan and establish practices and systems that engage and expand the number and skills of Indigenous Territorians in employment across the NT.

What the current workforce strategy does NOT include, is the implementation and incentivisation of NT graduate programs or job offerings for recent graduates from other states.

There is a large quota of young people in pockets of the country who are job-ready, but lacking the opportunity to become employed due to the current labour market.

To achieve this, more collaboration and communication with interstate universities is needed, alongside marketing collateral to encourage more young people to move to the territory.  A higher level of job opportunity awareness is needed, as graduates are simply unaware of the vacancies available in the Northern Territory.

If you require a workforce plan or strategy for your state or territory that focuses on finding skilled workers, filling job vacancies, or assessing unemployment rates, chat to Wendy at

June 2015


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