Talent shortage making it tough for employers to fill jobs

Man holding up a sign reading "Looking for a job"

A nationwide talent shortage means half of all employers are finding it difficult to fill vacant positions, with skilled trade workers ranking as the most sought after employee group.

The situation has slightly improved since last year, falling from 54 percent to 50 percent, according to ManpowerGroup’s annual Talent Shortage Survey. Despite this fall, the Australian shortage is still well above the global average of 34 percent and above the Asia Pacific average of 45 percent. Out of 41 countries, Japan ranked first for talent shortages with Australia ranking fourth.

Skilled trade workers, engineers and sales representatives have consistently topped the local skills shortage list of professions since 2006, and according to ManpowerGroup managing director Lincoln Crawley the lack of skilled trade workers is an ongoing problem that’s threatening Australia’s economy.

“We are in a resources boom that is going to last for decades and unless we boost apprentice completion rates there will be a severe shortfall of skilled trade workers,” ehe said.

In an attempt to combat high drop-out rates for apprenticeships, Fair Work Australia is considering lifting wage rates for apprentices. Crawley says this will be helpful as long as a balance exists and employers can still afford to hire and train apprentices.

“Companies also need frontline managers to have the skills and resources to support apprentices properly, and make sure their first experience of the workplace is a positive one,” he added.

Career Industry Council of Australia executive director Peter Tatham agrees, adding that more investment is needed to guide individuals towards high-demand jobs.

“To address skills shortages over the next decade we need to ensure that the young people in school, university and vocational training have access to high-quality, well-resourced career services to increase their awareness of opportunities and to develop the skills to access them.”

At the moment, Tatham says Australia is heading in the opposite direction: “In its most recent budget, the Federal Government abandoned its national career development strategy, cut the career information service, stopped funding national career development week and reduced publication of the job guide.”

“People of all ages require better quality labour market information to make informed career decisions that may contribute to addressing skills shortages,” he added.

ManpowerGroup’s latest Fresh Perspectives Paper, Break the Crisis and Complacency Cycle: Get Ahead of the Global Talent Shortage attempts to help companies break out of the complacency that has surrounded talent shortages. The paper also advises employers on how they can execute hiring strategies that will allow them to overcome the talent shortage crisis.

“Human resources leaders have a number of workforce options to consider including: hiring workers who are a teachable fit; using strategic migration; employing flexible workers; and recruiting from underemployed groups such as older workers,” explained Crawley.

“Employers may not think leaving important positions unfilled is a problem now, but they will in years to come, when it will be too late,” he warned.