RDA Illawarra is undertaking a 2-year research project, which will identify skills demands and future opportunities in the Illawarra. We know skill shortages are not a new dilemma, but the context of our environment has rapidly changed, especially with recent global impacts such as COVID-19, cost of living pressures and record levels of low unemployment (currently 2.8%).
The project will compile region-specific data and identify industry training, recruitment and migration strategies for the Illawarra that addresses the needs of regional employers and investors. This is crucial to ensure businesses can attract and retain the skilled staff necessary to their operations.
As a region we cannot take an ad hoc approach to building a skilled regional workforce. It is only by better understanding the needs of employers, along with the desires of workers locally, that we can effectively fill the skills gap through bespoke training, cross-skilling and targeted skilled worker migration.
Research from the first round of the survey with 185 employers shows 56 percent of Illawarra businesses rate the level of skills shortages as either high (31%) or extreme (25%) with Shellharbour employers rating the shortage more critical at 77 percent. Sixty percent of respondents perceive an acute shortage of skilled labour for the foreseeable future.
The chart below illustrates the top perceived causes of skill shortages:
The survey also found the outlook of Illawarra employers regarding available skilled workers was broadly negative with 76 percent of respondents believing skills shortages negatively impacted their business growth and planning.
Occupations highest in demand are illustrated in the image below:
We, as a region, can develop and share best practice strategies for employers and educators or training organisations. It is only by understanding where the shortages lie and the reasons for them, that we can attract qualified and experienced workers who are invested in the future of the Illawarra.
On 11 August 2023 RDA Illawarra convened a Skills Forum which was attended by over 40 regional stakeholders. A presentation of the first wave of research is provided here.
The Big 5 Questions + Group Actions from the Skills Forum held on the 11 August 2023, can be accessed here.
All Illawarra businesses are invited to take part in the next six-monthly survey in October, which takes less than 10 minutes to complete by either phone or on-line. Employers will be asked about the skills and occupations that are required for their business now, and into the future. Employers are urged to support this project and take the call from our research partners, EMRS, in the next three waves of research.