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NQ Skills Shortage….. or not?

We are often asked for information in relation to perceived current or future Skills Shortages.  How can there be talk of Skills Shortages in North Queensland in September 2018 when the Unemployment rate is 9.5%?

Our preference is to reference ‘a tightening in labour supply’, rather than a broad Skills Shortages statement, particularly when many businesses are still struggling and people are still having difficulty finding work.

This ‘tightening’ in the available supply of talent is across a range of positions currently, mostly in Trades (Plumbing, mechanical, electricians) and Professions such as Engineering/ Information Technology / Finance, Health, etc.  Most of the difficulty is experienced trying to fill project or short-term engagements.  Consumer confidence is still shaky, so people currently employed are unlikely to consider these opportunities, this means less available candidates and certainly more passive candidates.

Thousands of skilled talent left the region from 2013 to 2017 to follow employment opportunities.  Our challenge will be getting these people back.  When consumer confidence returns in the near future, business demand and confidence will soon follow.  The project pipeline is looking extremely positive.  Predicting when we will enter a Skills/Labour shortage environment is tough, but it’s definitely coming in the next 1-3 years.


What is a skill shortage?

A skill shortage exists when there are not enough people with a particular skill to meet demand. Skill shortage is a catch-all term used to describe a range of situations in which an employer finds it hard to find a worker with the right skills.  Skill shortages may differ in cause and nature.

Remember the Mining boom in the mid-2000s?

Genuine skill shortages

Genuine skill shortages occur when employers find it hard to fill job vacancies because there are not enough job seekers who have the required skills. For example, if carpenters were needed for construction projects, but there were too few carpenters with these skills currently unemployed and looking for a job, that would be a genuine skill shortage.

Skill shortages caused by recruitment and retention difficulties

This is when there is a good supply of individuals who have the required skills, but they choose not to work because they are unhappy with pay rates and/or working conditions.

Labour shortage

A labour shortage occurs when there are just not enough workers available to do all the work required. This kind of shortage can happen across industries, and affects skilled, low/semi-skilled and unskilled jobs. Low unemployment is a major cause of this type of shortage.

Skills in demand change over time and can be influenced by:

  • technological changes – for example, a move to automation may mean workers need additional skills to be able to operate new machinery.  Are we going to see a new revolution in the age of Artificial Intelligence (AI)?
  • economic shifts – for example, significant growth in the economy may create a labour shortage
  • the global competition / movement of skilled workers – for example, people with certain skills may choose to work overseas for better pay and conditions
  • ageing populations – for example, some jobs have a high number of older workers, and when these workers retire, they leave a skills gap.