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All about the Skills Shortage in Australia

Posted on September 4, 2019
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Skills Shortage in Australia

Australia is facing a skills shortage; employers find it difficult to fill vacancies for an occupation or are unable to find the specialized skills required for a specific job. According to a report by Deloitte titled The path to prosperity: Why the future of work is human, which is part of their  Building the Lucky Country series, the national skills deficit in Australia is projected to be at 29 million by 2030.

According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, the total number of job vacancies in May was 243,200 which was an increase of 0.3% from February 2019.

The Australian government’s Department of Employment, Skills, Small and Family Business (formerly Department of Jobs and Small Business) conducts regular research to discover the skill shortages in Australia. It releases the skills shortage list by occupation and at the state, territory and national level. According to its latest report released in the second half of 2018, the following occupations faced a skills shortage in 2017-18.

  • Automotive trades- the professions here include electricians, motor mechanics, vehicle painters etc.
  • Engineering professions- these include civil engineers, mechanical engineers, and electrical engineers.
  • Engineering trades- professions under this are aircraft maintenance engineers, metal fitters, machinists etc.
  • Food trades- chefs, bakers, pastry cooks or butchers
  • Health professionals-optometrist, speech therapist, sonographer etc.
  • Nurses
  • Teachers

Based on the shortage of skills in different professions, the Australian government releases the Skilled Occupation List (SOL). This is updated regularly by the Department of Home Affairs (DHA) based on the demand status for various occupations.

The SOL is further divided into three categories- Medium and Long-term Strategic Skills List (MLTSSL) Short-term Skilled Occupation List (STSOL) and Regional Occupation List (ROL).

However, a limit is placed on the number of Expression of Interest (EOI) or invitations that can be issued for individual occupations. This limit is known as the occupation ceiling. The occupation ceiling can give you a fair idea of which occupation is in demand and help you understand which skills are in shortage in Australia. For instance, the occupation ceiling for registered nurses was more than 17,000 in 2019-20 indicating a skills shortage.

The table below shows the occupations with a higher number of occupation ceilings for the 2019-2020 programs:

Name of Occupation

Occupation ceiling
Management consultant 5,269
Civil Engineering Professionals 3,772
Secondary School Teachers 8,052
University Lecturers and Tutors 3,407
General Practitioners and Resident Medical officers 3,550
Registered Nurses 17,509
Software and Applications Programmers* 8,748
Solicitors 4,650
Motor Mechanics 6,399
Structural Steel and Welding Trades Workers 3,983
Metal Fitters and Machinists 7,007
Carpenters and Joiners 8,536
Plumbers 5,060
Electricians 8,624
Sports Coaches, Instructors and Officials 4,071

According to the report by Deloitte mentioned earlier, Australia will face skill shortages in critical areas. According to Deloitte Access Economics partner, and lead report author, David Rumbens, “The extent of skills shortages, and how long until this peaks, will vary by industry but be felt throughout the economy.

They will be most prolific where people are key to driving how businesses create value, and five industries –government services, construction, health, professional services and education – are set to face more than two million skills shortages at their peak.”

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