We require a holistic approach which delivers better outcomes for the country
After such a big economic shock, having a tight labour market seems like a good problem to have; at least in the short term. But imagine if Australia can use the current stresses and strains to adopt a more targeted migration program; slingshot our tertiary education system into the future; and improve geographic and occupational mobility.
From a policy perspective, every option should be on the table, acknowledging that restoring balance to the education system and improving mobility will take time, while using migration to deliver for many sectors is relatively straight forward.
Scenario modelling and forecasting will help balance these factors, and open up new pathways to addressing skills shortages through these different labour force pipelines. This modelling also demonstrates the potential of occupational mobility solutions through upskilling, as well as some surprising opportunities where employers can go searching in specific occupations with transferable skills or with a strong track record of successfully transferring to the employers desired occupations. It’s also the role of employers to work with the education sector to introduce more relevant, targeted and timely training solutions. Take micro-credentialism , a route increasingly favored by employers developing their own programs.
Businesses have a substantial role to play in shaping demand for specific skills, and clear indications of willingness to hire from specific courses and institutions – both VET and higher education – will inevitably shape the flow of students into these fields of study.
Government clearly has a significant role to play as well. Most importantly, getting migration policy settings right has the potential to dramatically shorten the length of Australia’s skills shortage, this will require an ambitious lift in migration to make up for the COVID-shortfall, as well as collaboration with industry to identify the right skills that we’re seeking to attract - something the government has shown a willingness to do through the pandemic.
Governments must look for opportunities to reduce or remove friction to occupational mobility - the current Deregulation Taskforce’s work on automatic mutual recognition is a good example – and support the upskilling that is often required.
In addition, Governments supporting higher education institutions of all stripes to offer greater flexibility – from recognized on-the-job learning to micro-credentials to diplomas and degrees, all recognized on a single skills platform - would be a welcome step, as would incentivizing greater collaboration with industry in the design and delivery of courses, short and long. It’s also important to remember that the public sector employs one in 7 workers.
While moving the dial on geographic mobility is difficult, there is surely deregulation and red tape reform, and improved digital service delivery that can reduce the administrative burden.
If government and business get these settings right, the economic tail wind will be significant. Mobility improves the dynamism of an economy, as knowledge is shared between professions, industries and sectors, and lifts productivity.
EY’s Labour Market Model addresses these challenges on a role-by-role basis, and is an invaluable tool for businesses who are looking ahead to answer some of the most pressing questions today: Where will I find workers to train? How many workers will I need? Where will I need them?
While there’s no silver bullet, businesses who respond early to these shifting dynamics will win the talent war that is coming.