Experts in the Media

Jude Mahony – Mandurah Mail

Global Resourcing Strategist

Answer to skills shortage might be sitting right in front of us

I don’t believe there’s a magic pill to fix the skills shortage in Australia, but I do believe we need to take a longer-term view of our buy, build, bench, borrow and bot strategies.

I also believe there are underutilised sectors of our society that are being overlooked for no good reason.

Discrimination is alive and well in our society – for numerous reasons.

Watching the latest Miriam Margolyes show Australia Unmasked, I was saddened by the statistics about ageism, 50 per cent of the population are ageist and nearly 90 per cent of Australians agree that ageism exists in Australia.

And that’s our first untapped labour pool, older Australians.

When Australian Human Rights Commission data tells you that if you’re over 55 you’re going to find it more difficult getting paid work – it means we have a huge untapped pool of skilled workers who are being overlooked simply because of their age, and those skills are going to waste.

There are challenges faced by pensioners in particular who have restrictions on the number of hours they can work without reduction to their pension payments, which the government is reviewing. In addition, many older workers have their own requirements for flexibility; whether that’s to spend more time with grandchildren, more time on hobbies or just more time enjoying their lives, flexibility is a major motivator which is not being offered in many roles.

Our second untapped labour pool is migrants. Many migrants are immensely qualified and have transferrable skills, but when they arrive in Australia they struggle to find work.

The occupations in demand list doesn’t include their skillsets and yet they could be contributing to our economy.

With changes to the temporary visa thanks to the pandemic, you can now employ a working holiday visa-holder for 12 months compared to the previous six months, which means you’re missing out on a plethora of skilled employees.

We need the government to adjust the occupations in demand list, the visa system to enable pathways to permanency, to provide flexibility for critical skills and different talent segments, and to cope with the backlog in processing.

Ask yourself if your own prejudices or assumptions about working holiday makers or visa- holders is preventing you from tapping into this labour pool? Let’s be honest, most people are not lifers at companies anymore anyway.

And that segues nicely into our third untapped labour pool: workers with transferrable skills. During the pandemic, many industries lost good employees permanently as those transferrable skills were transferred to other industries who took a different approach to their requirements and offered upskilling or cross-skilling in technical areas and took advantage of the soft skills that those employees brought with them.

Look at the specifics of your work – what are the activities that you need your team to undertake to deliver your customer outcomes and can that be done via part-time, casual, subcontract or outsourced labour?

Can you utilise workers who don’t have the specifics but have a good base to build from? What are the absolute must-have technical capabilities you require and what are the behaviours you want to encourage?

Businesses today need to look at different ways of engaging and retaining the skills needed for their long-term viability.

Understand those untapped markets, adjust your expectations, and the preconceived notions of what you think you need when you’re recruiting, promoting or seconding. Be aware of who you have in front of you, resourcing is like dating and marriage – it’s all about tolerance.

Don’t let ageism, racism, or other biases prevent you from taking advantage of the plentiful knowledge and skills available.

  • Jude Mahony is a resourcing expert with over 20 years of experience in the organisational transformation and change space.