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WA SKILLS SHORTAGE

The skills shortage: not up for discussion

Last week I had my first experience in being formally interviewed by the West Australian. I was asked to comment on the skills shortage in WA specific to “the trifecta of gender, age and skills”.

As you can imagine I had A LOT to say!

Preparing 2 pages of notes (#novice) I was so ready for the opportunity to voice my opinions.

I think the skills shortage has become a bit of a highbrow conversation over simple facts. As recruiters at the coal face of the job market, the skills shortage in WA is our day-to-day reality, not a topic up for argument.

Age and culture

At the risk of sounding ageist this is what we have observed;

  • Some of our clients would be open to offering opportunities to our aging workforce – but some people over 60 simply can’t get work and are judged on their lack of technical skills or the energy to be able to keep up with the pace expected by businesses in the 2020’s.

  • Those industries that say they can’t attract younger people have to realise that whilst in the past “we worked harder” or “this generation is self intitled” we have to appreciate that they are a different breed, possibly how our grandparents viewed our generation.

  • Some businesses or industries don’t have skills shortages, they could be experiencing the repercussions of a poor company or industry culture. I do think for some businesses it is a cop out to say there is a lack of a willing workforce and not because they have a business that no one wants to work in!

Entering the work force

  • The emerging workforce is smart and seem to avoid working in jobs that potentially will be automated or industries where salaries cap out at a lower than anticipated wage, they are also scared to start to look for work and most don’t even know where to start.

  • Telling our high school graduates to go to uni and get a degree means that we are also under valuing the service industry, trades and unskilled jobs yet don’t acknowledge that many tertiary graduates won’t end up working in the area in which they studied.

  • Entry level roles aren’t always advertised on traditional job boards because the response is far too great, so businesses don’t know where to get good people and good people don’t know where to look.

Women

The gender issue is an interesting debate with the “mum penalty” being a hot topic, I still believe there are two sides to this story.

  • Woman tend to take time off work to look after their kids therefore experience an approximate 39% gender pay gap.

  • On the other side of the debate there are stereotypes around the types of roles that men avoid or have trouble being considered for like nursing, childcare and administration because these roles aren’t “masculine enough”.

  • I see businesses still preferencing females for part time opportunities particularly in professional services over their male counterparts.

  • Weighing in on this is the discussion of the cost of day care being prohibitively expensive, for some the cost can cancel out a salary of an average two income household meaning one parent has to stay at home.

  • Is it right? No! Do things need to change? Yes! But there is no quick fix and it contributes to the skills shortages big time.

Employee protection

Business owners and leaders face a lot of scrutiny when it comes to anti-discrimination, unfair dismissal, diversity, workplace culture, bullying etc. – and have the job of navigating the mine field that is Fair Work Act.

Don’t get me wrong for a minute - I wholeheartedly believe in the absolute need for employee protection.

But – an excellent company culture needs to exist in order for employees to feel satisfied and happy in their jobs. This isn’t always a priority for organisations – and so employers can end up feeling that they are at risk of being unfairly persecuted by employees and see certain groups of people as safer hires.

This, in part, is why I advocate so hard for a positive and inclusive company culture.

When your employees are happy they are more effective and efficient – and you have the opportunity to attract so many more skills into your organisation through different people.

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