Talent shortage in trades, sales and engineering

Posted October 13, 2011, by Josie Chun

Australia is in the grip of a major talent shortage with 45 per cent of employers having difficulty filling key positions in their organisations, according to the 2010 Manpower Talent Shortage Survey. This places Australia well above the global average of 31 per cent when it comes to talent shortages, ranking it sixth amongst those countries finding it difficult to fill positions.

The jobs that are hardest to fill in Australia are skilled trades, sales representatives and engineers – the same jobs that have been at the top of the local shortage list since 2006.

Lincoln Crawley, Managing Director of Manpower Australia and New Zealand, believes the skills shortage in Australia is well entrenched and not going anywhere fast.

‘The percentage of Australian employers indicating that they are having problems filling certain positions has hovered around the 50 per cent mark for five years now and the top three job titles experiencing skills shortages haven’t changed during that time either,’ says Crawley.

The problem, according to Crawley, is one of a talent mismatch rather than a lack of potential candidates. ‘There are not enough sufficiently skilled people in the right places at the right times. Compounding the issue is that employers are seeking ever more specific skill sets and are less willing to engage in anticipatory hiring. This all adds up to a very challenging and frustrating time for employers and job seekers alike,’ says Crawley.

Those occupations requiring the highest qualifications are the ones projected to see the greatest increases in demand in the foreseeable future. A World Economic Forum projection of the high-skills labour market from 2020 to 2030 foresees many nations facing very high skills gaps across 12 major industries in areas such as engineering and construction, healthcare and manufacturing. The same is true of skilled manual trade jobs, which for years have been amongst the hardest to fill globally.

According to Crawley, training and development are the key to tapping into new talent pools. Employers need to start looking outside the proverbial box to consider candidates who may not tick all the obvious boxes, but who may still possess the key skills and qualities to be stellar performers. Potential candidates could include industry migrants (workers looking for jobs outside their industry), location migrants (workers who are willing to relocate for a job), internal role changers (existing employees who can be redeployed into different roles) and new workforce entrants.

‘By broadening their search for talent in untapped pools, employers can leverage candidates that may not be a precise fit but instead are a “teachable fit”,’ says Crawley. ‘It matters less what technical skills, although still important, an individual mastered in the past, and matters more that an individual possesses the capacity, capability and motivation to learn new skills in the future.’

Training will be vital and employers need to commit to reskilling and upskilling employees, new hires and even potential candidates in order to expand the available talent pool, ensure that workers continue to be appropriately skilled, save external recruiting costs and keep employees engaged in their work. This will be especially important in industries with chronic and systemic talent shortages such as healthcare and the energy industries.

Most in-demand jobs in Australia

1.    Skilled trades
2.    Sales representatives
3.    Engineers
4.    Management/Executive (Management/Corporate)
5.    Mechanics
6.    Technicians
7.    Accounting and finance staff
8.    Nurses
9.    Secretaries, PAs, Administrative assistants and office support staff
10.  Drivers

Josie Chun

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