17/11/2022 - 14:24 pm

Ai Group latest Skills Survey a ‘call to arms’

“An Ai Group skills survey – Listening to Australian businesses on skills and workforce needs – sounds yet another alarm on the skills shortages and gaps plaguing the Australian economy,” Innes Willox chief executive of the national employer association Ai Group said today.

“Our survey of close to 350 business leaders from a wide range of Australian companies asked businesses about their skills and workforce needs and challenges.

“Businesses report that when they need to implement a new business model, adopt a new technology or just plan to increase customer demand, they are constrained because they are struggling to secure the right people with the right skills to get the job done.”

Skills Ministers met in Adelaide on 18 November prior to the Australian Training Awards. This survey amplifies the importance of Ministers making key decisions and acting upon the reforms required.

“When it comes to the answers, all roads lead to education and training – skilling, re-skilling and upskilling – at scale. It’s complex, but it can be done,” Willox says.

“We need to start rebuilding our workforce at home as a matter of urgency. It is a huge national challenge. No sector of our population should be left out. Age, gender, geography, current educational attainment, disability or disadvantage should not matter. If we are serious about building an economy for the future, we need to use all the resources at our disposal.

The results show a widespread increase in businesses’ requirements for skilled labour across all occupational groups – in particular, technicians and trades workers, professionals and managers. Some 69% of businesses said their skill needs had increased in relation to technicians and trades workers, 45% in relation to professionals, 43% for managers, 38% for machinery operators and drivers and 37% for labourers. 71% of businesses reported difficulty meeting their requirements for technicians and trades workers, showing a deep and entrenched shortage of workers in these occupations.

Around a quarter (24%) of businesses reported either emerging or increased skill needs as a result of the transition to a clean economy. There was strong support for training and development, with 82% of businesses intending to either maintain or increase the amount they spend on staff training and development in the next 12 months. 74% of businesses expressed interest in employing university or TAFE students as higher-level apprentices or cadets, indicating a strong appetite for new apprenticeship-style training contracts beyond the traditional trades.

“So, what can we do about it?

  1. Create a culture of lifelong learning, by building an education and training system that is capable of rapidly and flexibly upskill existing workers. Increase delivery and integration of short, stackable training options, including microcredentials.
  2. Focus on developing leadership and management capabilities. Employers need improved access to relevant microcredentials to regularly develop managers in new roles, tasks and capabilities.
  3. Improve digital skills across the board. This means formalising digital literacy as part of post-school education and training, upskilling older workers, and a focus on digital inclusion for those in danger of being left behind.
  4. Ensure apprentice/trainee incentives support consistent training pipelines over time, by incentivising employers and those in training, and encouraging completions.
  5. Implement the recommendations of the Noonan Review of the Australian Qualifications Framework (AQF) to unlock the rigid constraints the current Framework places around skills and knowledge.
  6. Work towards a more coherent and connected tertiary education system by removing the current barriers for students wanting to move between the VET and higher education sectors.
  7. Ensure tertiary education funding is equitable across sectors, sufficient to deliver access and equity principles and supports both public and private providers.

“The survey results should be a call to arms for us all,” Willox said.

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