Bridging the Australian Skillls Gap

Posted on: 10.07.2011    10:10:57

Australian skills shortages across so many sectors are impacting upon Corporate opportunities and it is going to get a lot worse as the Mining boom part 2 accelerates. So why is the gap growing rather than closing?

As an international recruitment company we are able to take an overview and hopefully a perspective that those closer to the coal face do not see:

  • Globally there are four sectors that are under pressure for skills: Education, Engineering, Natural Resources (Mining, Oil and Gas, Electric and Water) and Healthcare and Australia has problems in each of these areas.
  • Increasing global competition. A healthcare professional can put a pin in the map of the world and probably secure a job there within months if they are determined to do so. In education, the teaching of English is in global demand. Immediately Australia is in competition with Saudi Arabia to find English Language teachers but won’t pay the salaries required. Canada and Norway are competing selectively for natural resource talent and as previously written the Middle East is beginning to stir.
  • Global economic recovery is still patchy but it does appear to be slowly turning. Germany has a shortage of Engineers. Even the UK is acknowledging that a problem is around the corner and has started to use Polish workers in more senior positions.
  • It has become a “sellers” market. Candidates have choices. Outstanding candidates have many choices and will go for the best deal. If Australia is to ease its problems it needs to think globally not locally.
  • Australia needs to communicate at grass roots level. At long last some enlightened CEO’s are getting the message that talent management is too important to leave to process driven HR departments and are linking up with search specialists but the information flows are still weak. If I had an A$1 for every time I’ve heard “we are too busy to……….. “ I wouldn’t be writing this article. Talk about an own goal – it is laughable. Avoid awkward questions at the next shareholders meeting and have a credible talent management plan in place.
  • We get applications from within Australia and from those wanting to return to Australia. What does that tell you about the local recruiters? As colleagues in Australia have said “why go hunting when there is low hanging fruit to pick?” Our experience is that many Aussie’s drop out of our processes as they are deemed too tough. That is good as it obviously shows they are weeding out the weaker, lazier candidates.
  • International Recruitment Agencies need be highly responsible in candidate selection but it is a tough call as employer candidate requirement flow is inadequate and we often don’t know whether we are looking at a round peg or a square hole so we’ve evolved a new system. We effectively gather comprehensive information up front and have an international candidate base available that through colleagues in Australia we “reverse head hunt” into positions on a first come first served basis.

With only one in three jobs ever being advertised it is the “under the counter” market that is key to identifying critical needs but very often the requirements do not escaped from the board room or get hung up in corporate processes and by the time the searches begin the cream of the crop has gone.

The problem starts at the top.Until CEO’s take charge of talent management, matters will only get worse but the first step is to make sure you back door is well and truly closed.

We are here to help but it takes two to communicate.


Author: Chris Slay

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