Australian Industry Group warns gov't of national skills shortage

Source: Xinhua| 2019-08-08 11:26:20|Editor: Xiaoxia
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SYDNEY, Aug. 8 (Xinhua) -- Australia's peak industry body has urged the government to address the country's "skills shortages" on Thursday, by reforming Vocational Education and Training (VET) Systems across the nation.

Writing a letter to Prime Minister Scott Morrison and the country's State and Territory leaders ahead of the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) meeting in Cairns Friday, the Australian Industry Group's chief executive Innes Willox warned that "75 percent of employers are experiencing difficulty in recruiting suitably qualified or skilled people into vacancies."

"With the global economy now in choppy waters and Australia falling down the world's performance tables, now, more than ever, governments need to work with industry to secure a long-term prosperous future for us all," Willox said.

"The first step has to be a ground-up rebuild of our Vocational Education and Training (VET) System. This must be a national priority."

"It is our view that the VET system is in a less than optimal state to meet the national imperatives of delivering the skill requirements for the labour market of the future."

Calling for a complete overhaul, he added that Australia's economy and community are currently facing a significant transformation period in the jobs sector triggered by digital disruption, structural adjustment and demographic shifts.

"This has contributed to a dynamic and accelerating requirement for skills and employment," Willox said.

Among the industry jobs most frequently reported to be in shortage according to an Australian Industry Group report in 2018, were technicians, trade workers and professionals in all fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).

"Employers listing occupations experiencing skills shortages for the first time also included those with skills in business automation, big data and artificial intelligence solutions," Willox said.

Despite Australia's increasing population, figures from the peak body suggest apprenticeships and traineeships have actually plummeted in recent years.

In 2012, there were 446,000 people undertaking these training programs, but as of last year that number had dropped to 259,385 - the lowest level for a decade.

But with an unprecedented pipeline of public investment being pumped into transport and social infrastructure projects around Australia, Willox said the increased demand for workers could see the skill shortage Down Under get even worse.

"This infrastructure work is necessary to stimulate our softening economy and lift domestic productivity and amenity but it also carries with it pressures on particular skills which are in high demand because they are the same skills required elsewhere in the economy - such as in the mining sector," he explained.

"Such a large program of work increases pressures on capability and capacity in both the private and public sectors."

In order to tackle the problem, The Australian Industry Group wants all levels of government to engage with the Education Department's National Skills Commission and commit to a national "roadmap for reform."

"A genuinely national training system that meets the needs of the economy may finally be possible," Willox said.

"Commitment to a roadmap for reform should be a key outcome of the current COAG process."