Skills Shortages Biting South Australia on the You Know What!

What is one of the topics that is a top-of-mind conversation at every business and industry event?


Whether it relates to the building and construction sector, call centres, food and beverages, disability and health, hospitality and tourism, insurance, manufacturing or tech?


Employers everywhere are saying that they cannot find enough people and/or skilled people to fill current vacancies and some have a record number of jobs on offer.


With announcements about major tech companies and multinationals coming to or scaling up operations in Adelaide, the attraction investment point of difference related to ‘workforce’ will become much more of a risk.  Names such as Cognizant, Cisco, Microsoft, Amazon, Google and Nokia, announcing large numbers of jobs available, alongside local and national employers across a variety of industry areas, who are recruiting and especially in regional locations.


South Australian Premier and Ministers highlight a ‘Christmas jobs spree’ with more than 11 000 jobs being advertised on CareerOne and Seek platforms with many casual roles.  But where will people come from?  An influx from interstate helps but demand is not being met.  Is a jobs spree a workforce drought looking at it from another perspective?


The current one-eyed focus on apprenticeships and traineeships with accredited training is very narrow and un-inspiring.  Whilst higher apprenticeships, internships, scholarships and work placements offer more options these are really more of a slight variation on the same.


On the other side of politics, the solution to workforce issues will be addressed by merging South Australian Universities and future immigration, but haven’t we heard all of this stuff before?  While immigration can help, it is not the only answer, and I am not sure how merging the Universities will impact the states available workforce.


Over the years, South Australia has been known as a leader in workforce and Vocational Education and Training (VET) innovation but as we look forward some of us are asking if the team has run out of creative ideas.  If you go back through the blogs I’ve written over the last 15 years you’ll see while we’ve been sold the sizzle, we’ve mostly been running to catch up and we’ve always been a few steps behind what employers and industry needs.


However, there are structural components that still need addressing raised back in 2014-18 such as:


  1. A vision for VET in Australia
  2. Incorporating the future of training and learning
  3. Future proofing the South Australian apprenticeship and traineeship system
  4. Global issues – lack of skills VET supply and demand mismatch
  5. Attracting the future disability sector workforce scaling up is a challenge
  6. The future of freight transport logistics: technologies, trends, jobs
  7. VET & STEM – where does it need to go
  8. South Australian Workforce Vision needed to address State’s Economic Priorities
  9. And the biggest issue of all, the pink elephant in the room, related to the lack of relevance of VET and the need for non-accredited, international development and creative workforce strategies

It is time to be bold, innovative and plan for our workforce before we need it, if for no other reason than to meet our obligations around what was promoted to major employers when they chose to make South Australia their home.


Of course employers, industry and peak bodies have a role to play and this blog titled How To Attract & Recruit Employees In Times Of Labour & Skill Shortages provides ideas and recommendations.  Communication, change management and team cohesion related to organisation’s employee vaccination policies will be the biggest impact internally for the 2022 year.


So where might we look next?  Well there is underutilised capacity in the current South Australian market that could be tapped into, for example:


  • Women with young children
  • Focusing on the abilities of people with disabilities
  • Mature aged people who are out of full-time employment, often older men
  • Self-employed people that can adapt into new sectors and services, plus where they need more customers to be viable and sustainable and/or could take up a part time, contract or casual role too
  • Culturally diverse people with overseas experience
  • Leaning on the skills of people who are retired and would enjoy contributing alongside the challenges of fill in, casual, seasonal or project work

Being flexible, with workplace location where it is possible, outsourcing locally, regionally or internationally, and an innovation fund that does not insist on apprenticeships, traineeships and accredited training would see much more creativity, agility, and much quicker skilling solutions brought to solving workforce issues.


And if being world class is an aim for the state then considering what is happening interstate, nationally and overseas, would be par for the course, as well as encouraging stakeholders to grow their own solutions with more initiatives like the Employment Facilitators being set up in 51 locations across Australia.  This provides the opportunity to tap into Local Recovery Funds and a National Priority Fund, with Local Job Plans supported by industry and provider Taskforce members.


More on this global action research soon, as well as solutions across schools and all levels of formal education.  Are labour and skills shortages top of mind for you, colleagues, your organisation, industry and/or region?

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