How to address the Australian skills shortage

The Australian skills shortage… fake news or the real deal?

Despite what some are calling economic uncertainty on the back of a summer of bushfires and damaging weather patterns, the phenomenon of the Australian skills shortage is very real. The reasons for this are many:

  • The transformational impact of modern technology is making many skills redundant, and others equally difficult to source
  • Organisations who underinvest in and under-develop their people across education, training, and skills growth
  • Where new trends arise across industries, lag time is typical for the right skills to be in place to manage these, i.e. rising incidents of fraud and online security violations are outpacing the ability to fill cybersecurity jobs
  • Some traditional industries can’t shake legacy reputations, despite moving with the times. Previously held beliefs of potential workers create a dearth of available talent (for example, the manufacturing industry)
  • Retiring workers: the loss of knowledge workers, to retirement, is very real in today’s workplace and is barely met through younger generations

These are just some of the reasons for the current Australian skills shortage.

But, there is hope for Aussie organisations…

Australia: Top 10 in the Global Talent Competitive Index

Australia is becoming a sought-after destination for the world’s top talent.

The recently published Global Talent Competitive Index, has for the first time, seen Australia included in the world’s top 10 countries for talent competitiveness. The report benchmarks and ranks countries on their ability to attract, nurture, grow and retain talent.

This result will enable Australia’s corporates to be better positioned to attract global talent, particularly given our capacity for social inclusion. And, whilst we may compete for the same talent as a number of other countries, being positioned as a ‘top 10’ country gives us greater kudos for global talent mobility.

Here’s the list of the top 10 from Australian Financial Review

Australian skills shortage

This accolade comes with a downside, however. The Australian skills shortage covers a range of evolving jobs and aptitudes (both hard and soft skills). According to LinkedIn, the hard skills most in demand as of January 2020 include:

  • Blockchain
  • Cloud computing
  • AI
  • Investor relations
  • UX design
  • …. amongst others (including soft skills)

And this isn’t just an Australia trend. These are skills that are in short supply across most developed countries.

As our global standing is set to improve, so too is the attractiveness of ex-pat Aussies with these very skills, who are seeking international experience.

It’s a classic two sides of the same coin scenario.

Retention? It’s not the Real Problem!

The ability for Australian companies to retain their high-performing talent is major stress playing on the minds of local CEO’s; another symptom of the Australian skills shortage.

So… whilst organisations in Australia may be better placed to attract global talent, the leakage of highly skilled Aussie workers is a real probability. And one that has the potential to drain Aussie companies of their expert armoury of workers.

“Yes… this is likely: although the migration of expert workers to Australia is likely – we have, after all, been an attractive option for corporate, global nomads – the outflow of specialist Aussie workers certainly won’t serve to alleviate our CEO’s retention worries.”

But retention need not be the Achilles heel for Aussie CEO’s.

Increasingly across the globe, organisations are adopting an agile, strategic, results-oriented approach to the deployment of workers.


With contingent labour.

Particularly where skills shortages exist, the short-term, high-expertise nature of contingent talent has an enormous capacity to plug skills gaps for the organisation.

Let’s now add another factor into this scenario: the rising trend of expert talent who prefer the nature of contract or contingent work. They’re in a prime position in the current Australian and global workforce landscape to pick and choose their professional destiny. And there’s more and more of these workers in the market.

Sure, they’re expensive.

But they’re also short-term, highly qualified, results-driven, and proven (and in most instances of a well-managed contingent workforce program, they end up saving the organisation a bucket of cash).

And I’m not talking one-off scenarios here!

I’m talking a well-considered strategy that plays to the organisation’s long-term goals and requisite demands for people. Think the holy grail of talent pools, filled with pre-qualified, silver medallists, ex-contractors, alumni, and those referred by employee networks.

Flexibility Alleviates Australian Talent Shortage Issue

“Harness the potential of flexible talent and innovation.”

This article from PwC offers insights from a global survey of business and HR leaders.

In the context of today’s workforce, flexible talent and innovation can largely be attributed to the contingent workforce. The combined intelligence of this expanding army of workers stands to solve a multitude of today’s workplace challenges. Not least of which is the shortage of skills across many categories of jobs and industries.

In 2019, the federal government announced it would establish a new, highly skilled talent migration stream, where 5,000 visas of some of the best and brightest workers from across the globe, will be fast-tracked for work commencement here.

The goal is to more firmly establish high-tech industries in Australia.

Whilst this is a fantastic opportunity for Australia, what it may well achieve, is a sustained shortage of skills, if organisations don’t adapt to the new market conditions of engaging contingent workers.

Inevitably, the workforce has changed forever.

The ability for organisations to embrace agility, mobility and flexibility will be the trademark of success and longevity.

The Australian skills shortage simply cannot be addressed with solutions of former times: like poaching competitive perms, old-school employment contracts and the like. The immense value of a contingent labour-force to the organisation can’t be understated as a means of addressing deficiencies in skills.

And don’t forget, the potential for contingent labour to improve your organisation’s performance and the bottom line is very real. As a cost-effective talent supply, you can dip in and out as you require, with the right strategic workforce plan and talent pool in place.

In summary:

Australian skills shortage

As one of the world’s top suppliers of contingent worker management solutions, CXC is perfectly positioned to optimise all elements of your contingent workforce strategy. With operations in more than 50 countries across 5 continents, and with decades of experience, we can assist with every aspect of your program.

If you would like to find out more about how we can help with your contingent workforce solutions please contact us here.