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Skilled Trades Jobs Are The Most Difficult To Fill

Latest figures show tradies' positions are the most 'in demand'.

20/10/2016 12:13 PM AEDT | Updated 20/10/2016 10:49 PM AEDT
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Employers say they struggle to find talent yet there are people out there crying out for work.

Thirty-eight per cent of Australian employers admit they're finding it tough filling job vacancies due to a shortage of talent, with the tradies leading the way in positions that are proving to be the most difficult to fill.

The 11th annual Manpower employment outlook survey showed lack of applicants (21 per cent), lack of experience (23 per cent) and lack of hard skills (20 per cent) are the key reasons why many businesses are struggling to fill positions.

Top of the list of industries suffering are trades, followed by engineers, management and executives, and sales reps.

The World Economic Forum has predicted 35 per cent of core skills that are considered to be vital for employment will change in the next three years.

Natasha Hawker from Employees Matters told the Huffington Post Australia it's not panic mode yet, but employers are definitely frustrated by the shortage of quality candidates.

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The skilled trades industry has been hardest hit by employee shortages.

"In some ways, employers are partly to blame as companies, especially SMEs, have significantly pulled back on their training spend in the Global Financial Crisis (GFC) and the previous levels of training and development spend has not returned. The impact of this is that employees lack skill development and education," Hawker said.

Federal government employment projections show an increase is expected in several industries, from now until November 2020. The latest Australian Bureau of Statistics Labour Force figures show that the unemployment rate has fallen to 5.6 per cent in August 2016, while the participation rate decreased by 0.2 percentage points to 64.7 per cent.

Hawker said that there are a number of factors at play. Firstly, there are not enough skilled workers and many people are moving into industries that didn't exist before.

"Plus, there are others starting their own businesses. I see a real challenge for large corporates with the numbers of female managers and senior managers exiting the corporate world in favour of setting up their own business. This will result in a significant shortfall and make reaching leadership quotas difficult," Hawker said.

"If the situation gets worse, there's a risk it will impact on productivity as businesses will become even more resource constrained."

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Instead of leading young people towards university, some need to be encouraged to learn a trade, in an industry where they are guaranteed employment.

The mining boom was previously blamed for the shortage of tradies, with so many of them being employed by the mining companies, leaving a gap elsewhere. This time, the building and construction boom across NSW and Victoria is to blame.

The Housing Industry Association said most shortages fall into the categories of bricklaying, ceramic wall and floor tiling - that's because so many people are renovating their homes. There are also shortages of electricians, plumbers and joiners.

Karen Gately, leadership and people management expert, told HuffPost Australia all industries move in ebbs and flows, in terms of growing their own talent.

"So, booms and busts come and go and we end up with shortages because we haven't attracted people to those professions to facilitate their learning. The investment needs to be made much earlier," Gately said.

"Employers often say it's hard to find talent but they're also struggling to compete for talent. So there's a skills shortage but what's difficult is there are also people out there crying out for work. There's a disconnect between people wanting work, and industries struggling to attract workers."

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There are many people who are well suited to the trades who are 'pushed' into other industries.

Gately believes a major issue is that Australians aren't investing in certain professions in our communities as our focus is on higher education.

"So that is holding back kids who are better suited to those trades. Some kids often aren't given good advice in regards to what their options are. They might be told 'These are the good jobs, go and find one,' instead of being told, 'This is what you're good at, keep going in that direction and you will be successful,'" Gately said.

"I do a lot of work for the construction business and it seems that, all of a sudden, a project ends and the first thing they do is lay off unskilled workers, then the tradesmen, and they all think they'll find another job. We're not good at the mobility of those work forces with those ebbs and flows in that kind of industry.

Hawker said if a business doesn't have a great Employee Value Proposition (what's in it for me), a great culture, and high levels of engagement (measure of discretionary effort), they will find it more difficult to retain and attract talented employees.

"Have no doubt especially now there is 'a war for talent' - protect your business by having a solid recruitment process and excellent candidate management and if you see a great candidate, move at speed to complete your assessment and secure them -- because if you don't, your competitor will."

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