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Still a tough market for skilled labour? [Blog]

Despite the headwinds of the European debt crisis and the predicted slowdown of our main export market in China, the Australian job market is showing resilience, which raises the question – how hard is it to find skilled labour in the current economic climate?

Figures published by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (www.abs.gov.au), and reported in The Age, in April for the first quarter of 2012 show that the unemployment rate remained at a relatively low 5.2%, although this figure masks somewhat the disparity in the states, with New South Wales showing a reduction in the jobless rate to 4.8% and Victoria and increase to 5.8% year on year to March. In Queensland the rate recently dropped to 5.5%, still above the national average, which raises the question – is the two speed economy still present if a traditional mining state has higher than average unemployment?

At TMS we have seen anecdotal evidence of a slight slow-down in the resources sector, although relative to the rest of the economy this portion of the job market is still growing at a significantly faster rate than other sectors such as retail or agriculture. The big story in Queensland at least is LNG, with employment growth on projects in this field far exceeding the traditional mining sector. So it would seem that although the “two-speed economy” is still present, it is more complex than this term would imply, and this is reflected in the relative demands for certain types of skilled labour in Australia.

Our clients are telling us that there is still a significant demand for skilled labour in a number of areas, with engineering and IT skills a priority, but they are also raising their expectations on what new hires can bring to the table. Key attributes for most employers in today’s market include strong communication skills and the ability to adapt to a rapidly changing market, in addition to core technical abilities.  Therefore, it’s fair to assume that the job market in which we currently find ourselves is better branded as intense competition for exceptional talent rather than a skills shortage in general.

This talent is finding work, often at an increased salary, and the smart employers are finding (and keeping) the talent. So what is it that attracts these people to work for you and what pushes them to leave your competitors? HR experts and company executives are under pressure to provide excellent development opportunities, foster an outstanding workplace culture and develop competitive employee benefits as part of complex and appealing retention strategies. As a result, many organisations are turning to recruitment specialists to attract, locate and coax the ideal employee to their businesses.