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The Future Labour Market for Australian Apprenticeships

The COVID-19 pandemic has affected industries and businesses across Australia. Now that we are starting to look to the future, it is important to understand which industries and occupations are going to be in demand. As Prime Minister Scott Morrison has explained, “The jobs and skills we’ll need as we come out of the crisis are not likely to be the same as those that were lost.”

While it is relatively easy to determine which jobs have been lost, and which are still at risk during COVID-19, it is far more difficult to predict which jobs and skills they will be replaced with. Here we summarise data and predictions for future skills needs and suggests the best sources of information to visit as the situation progresses.

Pre-COVID-19 skills forecasts

As part of the 2019-20 Federal Government budget measures, an update of the National Skills Needs list was announced. Consultations for this updated list commenced in late 2019 and were due to be completed earlier in 2020. This process has been placed on hold due to COVID-19, despite ongoing skills analyses being undertaken.

Data from the National Skills Commission indicated that the areas of highest predicted growth in Victoria were in health care and social assistance; professional, scientific and technical services; education and training; construction; and accommodation and food services.

Of these growth industries, most jobs would require post-school education either through the VET sector, Australian Apprenticeships, or higher education.

Current and future skills need

In the next 6 to 12 months, trends in the labour market and specific industries will continue to be affected strongly by changes in COVID-19 restrictions. In the longer term, we would expect a more stable labour market with more predictable trends. Government support for industries, occupations and training pathways will shape this longer-term outlook.

During June there was a 26% increase in the number of jobs advertised online across Australia, and a number of businesses reported difficulties in recruiting the staff they needed.

Trades workers were one of the groups in greatest demand, both regarding the number of roles advertised and employers facing difficulties in recruiting skilled staff. Other roles in high demand were community and personal service workers, and sales workers.

These trends were driven by multiple factors. Sales workers, as well as those working in hospitality, and in sports and fitness, were in demand after extremely sharp drops in employment due to COVID-19 restrictions. As Australia started relaxing restrictions, employers needed to take on new staff to replace those that had been let go earlier in the year. These roles are highly likely to be affected by the current Victorian restrictions, and by any future waves and related restrictions.

In contrast, the demand for both trades' workers, and health and community services workers, are similar to demand seen preCOVID-19. These are skills that have been in demand and included in skills shortages information for some time.

The increase in health, community and personal services workers is driven by Australia’s aging population, by staffing requirements for the NDIS workforce, and by people increasing investment into their holistic health. The need for workers in these types of caring roles is expected to continue, but with a greater focus on infection control.

Trades areas have seen smaller declines in employment during COVID-19 and include some of the only jobs where there have been overall increases in staff over the 2019-20 year. Skills shortages in trades jobs have been occurring for some time and are likely to continue. Within these roles, increased use of and rapid changes in technology mean that workers need to continue learning new skills.

Australian Apprenticeships and the future workforce

Apprenticeships and traineeships cover many industries and occupations, including many of those expected to be in demand in the future. Trade apprenticeships are one of the key methods for becoming a skilled tradesperson, and these roles will continue to be in demand.

Australian Apprenticeships, being a method of employment-based learning, are intrinsically connected to the labour market. Doing an apprenticeship doesn’t guarantee a job at the end, however if employers are willing to take on apprentices it is a good indication that there are jobs available in that area.

The Australian and State and Territory Governments support  the Australian Apprenticeships system through a range of  measures, including incentives for roles in areas of skills need. Updated skills need lists at Australian and state levels will drive government investment and will reflect industry growth and skills shortage patterns.

Best Sources of Information and Data

The National Skills Commission has been working hard to track trends in the labour market during COVID-19. As part of their ongoing remit, the Commission will be examining labour market trends and informing governments across Australia about skills needs and shortages. They frequently publish new data and insight on the Labour Market Information Portal.

A user-friendly alternative is the Federal Government’s Jobs Hub ‘Job Match Tool’, an interactive source of information about job vacancies broken down by location. Although you can find Australian totals in this tool, it works best when you select your location. You can then select jobs of interest to see how vacancies have been trending, and the tool will suggest other, similar jobs that could be a good match.

The National Careers Institute is currently working on a digital platform, that will include up-to-date information about demand in industries and occupations and will provide information on the education and training pathways into those areas. When launched, this platform will provide valuable information to career researchers.

Summary

The COVID-19 pandemic has caused a rapid and unprecedented shift in the Australian labour market. Despite much uncertainty in what the future will hold, we can make some educated predictions about what skills needs Australia will have during the economic recovery and beyond. Australian Apprenticeships continue to provide connections to areas of skills need. Most of all, trade apprenticeships are likely to be in demand going forward. Government support for Australian Apprenticeships in areas of skills need will continue to drive increases in these roles.

Here at AATIS we want to help you stay up to date with everything going on in Australian Apprenticeships. Our newly launched AATIS Blog includes updates, news and industry trends. We also have a new Careers Bulletin e-newsletter that shares information for careers researchers and job hunters once a month. Subscribe now to stay up to date: https://www.aapathways.com.au/contact-us.

This article originally appeared in the CEAV Journal – Edition 2, 2020, Volume 47 and authored by Peta Skujins, AATIS Director. Find out more about CEAV here

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