Skills shortage back on agenda

Skill shortage looms

Caption: Nigel Heap, Hays, photo News Ltd

By Stephen Lunne and Kate Southam

Employers can no longer afford to think workers will be too spooked by the global financial crisis to change jobs, with a new survey finding most people have no more difficulty getting work now than last year.

While 86 per cent of the 200 workers aged 20-34 surveyed by the Mercer consultancy in October said they thought the crisis would make it harder to find a job, when asked about their actual experiences more than half said it was “easier” or “about the same” to find work compared with 12 months ago.

Age made a difference to results. Of those aged 20-24, 52 per cent said it was harder to find work than 12 months ago, almost 10 per cent more than 25-29 year olds and 16 per cent more than those aged 30-34.

The other difference was job type, with significantly more blue-collar workers than white-collar workers reporting it was “easier” or “about the same” to find work as 12 months ago.

Mercer executive Martin Turner said the findings showed a war for talent was back on the agenda.

“We’ve been saying for some time now that the big picture for employers is around a looming skills shortage, which we are predicting will be worse than a couple of years ago,” Mr Turner said.

“There is now pressure on employers to have a sound understanding of the skills they need and how they are going to acquire them.

“The pressure on employers is not to do what they did 12 months ago, which was hang on to their employees but make no investment in them,” Mr Turner said.

Manpower’s quarterly hiring intentions for January through March 2010 back this up. More than 20 per cent of the 2,000 employers surveyed plan to hire while 7 per cent plan to cut staff leaving a net increase in hiring intentions of 19 per cent.

Hiring intentions were strongest in South Australia where 27 per cent of employers surveyed plan to take on more staff. WA was next (23 per cent) then Victoria (21 per cent), Queensland and the Northern Territory (19 per cent), NSW (16 per cent) and Tasmania (13 per cent).

Whatever the case, the phrase ‘skills shortage’ is circulating once again.

“Already there are shortages of particular skills,” warns Nigel Heap, managing director of recruitment firm Hays.

“Financial and commercial analysts, estimators, business development managers and technical IT specialists are some examples," he said.  

CEO of recruitment firm IPA Rabieh Krayem says many employers are still wondering “if we’re through the worst” and could  take a cautious approach to hiring in the New Year.

Deb Loveridge, Asia Pacific CEO of recruitment and HR firm Randstad agrees.

“We’re not out of the woods yet. The combination of recent rate rises and improved consumer outlook will make employees consider their options over the holiday period,” she says.  

However she does expect “significant movement” in the labour market during the first quarter of 2010.  

Head of Drake International, Matthew Tukaki has no doubts Australia is looking at a bull employment market.

“We’ve moved our forecast on labour force demand in 2010 from optimistic to bullish based on feedback and new order rates we are receiving from clients,” he says.

“Drake is experiencing increased demand from existing and new clients for both part time and permanent workers in all states – with particular mention for Sydney where there has been a surge in full time staffing orders.

Mr Tukaki advises companies to carry out a review of their current workforce and ask themselves if staff are engaged and committed “or looking to jump ship at the first opportunity?”

By Stephen Lunne of The Australian and Kate Southam of  

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