2022 Skills Priority List Key Findings Report
Major occupation group findings
In this part of the report, comparisons between 2021 and 2022 SPL findings are made by major occupation group. The section also draws on data from SERA to shed light on potential reasons for shortages among the occupation groups.
2.1 Professional occupations
The Professionals occupation group saw a large increase in the number of occupations in shortage, with about two in five occupations (or 39%) in shortage in 2022, compared with one in five (or 19%) in 2021. This is the second largest percentage increase in shortages within any major occupation group. The result was largely driven by Health Professional occupations, which is discussed in further detail later in the paper. Large employing Professional occupations that were found to be in shortage were primarily health and education occupations, including Primary School Teacher, Secondary School Teacher, General Practitioner and Registered Nurses.
Most employers recruiting for Professionals required applicants to hold qualifications, most often a bachelor’s degree. Employers though, typically held additional requirements for applicants, with SERA data for Professional occupations showing that employers found roughly two thirds of applicants who held the required qualifications unsuitable. A lack of experience was the most cited reason for finding applicants unsuitable.
Furthermore, SERA data shows around one quarter of unfilled Professional vacancies remained unfilled despite employers finding suitable applicants. Most commonly this was because the applicant found alternative work in the same occupation, which provides some evidence of strong competition for experienced and qualified workers in this occupation group.
The overall findings relating to Professional occupations are in line with Australia’s tightening labour market. Structural change may also play a role in skill shortages within Professional occupations. Services – particularly knowledge-intensive services such as Professional, Scientific and Technical; Health Care and Education – are among the fastest growing industries in Australia across both employment and output. Over time, these industries have comprised a greater proportion of the Australian economy. As the economy continues to shift toward services, the ongoing demand for Professional occupations has the potential to translate into a greater number of skill shortages among the Professionals occupation group, especially if the supply of workers is unable to meet the growing demand. The 2022 SPL found that over 85% of professional occupations, which have a large presence in service industries, had strong or moderate future demand.
2.2 Technicians and Trades Workers occupations
Noting the change in the Professionals occupation group, shortages were still most prevalent within the Technicians and Trades Workers occupation group, with almost half (47%) of all occupations in this group in shortage in 2022. Last year, shortages were found in 42% of the Technicians and Trades Workers occupations. The 2022 SPL reveals that the largest employing occupations in shortage in this major group were Electrician (General), Carpenter, Chef and Motor Mechanic (General).
Some shortages within this broad group of occupations appear to be persistent over time.13 This means that economic developments, such as the tightening or loosening of the labour market, simply exacerbate or mitigate the underlying trend of shortages among some occupations within Technicians and Trades Workers.
The tightness in the labour market for Technicians and Trades Workers is also evident in the SERA data, which shows that employers typically receive small pools of applicants, with only around a third being suitably qualified. Most employers required applicants to hold a formal qualification, most commonly a Certificate III or IV, or an equivalent trade qualification. Despite this, employers still mostly struggled to find applicants who satisfied their experience requirements, with the majority of applicants (65%) in this major group being found unsuitable due to a lack of experience in the occupation.
2.3 Other occupation groups
Table 1 also shows that shortages increased in Machinery Operator and Driver occupations (29% in 2022 compared to 17% in 2021). Large employing occupations within this major group that were in shortage include Truck Driver (General) and Bus Driver.
Data from the SERA show employers of Machinery Operators and Drivers typically valued experience over qualifications, with more than 80% of employers requiring applicants with experience, while only around half required applicants with a relevant qualification.
The proportion of occupations in shortage also increased in the Community and Personal Service Worker occupation group (20% in 2022 compared to 8% in 2021). The largest employing occupations in shortage in this major group are Aged or Disabled Carer and Child Care Worker. Data from the SERA show that for occupations surveyed within this major occupation group, employers received small pools of applicants for advertised positions, and considered fewer than two applicants as suitable on average, per vacancy. A lack of experience was the most common reason that applicants were considered unsuitable with around 80% of employers requiring experienced applicants. On average, employers considered around one year of experience to be necessary.
Depending on the occupation, the share of employers requiring applicants to hold formal qualifications varied considerably. For example, all employers in Child Care Worker occupations require mandated minimum formal qualifications, compared with around 90% of employers recruiting for Aged and Disabled Carer, where minimum qualifications are highly desired but not mandatory. Other occupations can see a much smaller share of employers seeking formal qualifications.
Figure 5 below shows the most common actions taken by employers in response to unfilled vacancies as reflected in the NSC’s SERA survey. The most common action of employers with unfilled vacancies was to continue advertising in the same place (67%) or advertise in a different way (17%).
Employers advertising for Labourer positions were the most likely to continue advertising in the same area, followed by employers of Community and Personal Service Workers and Machinery Operators and Drivers. Over 70% of employers with unfilled vacancies in these major occupation groups undertook this course of action.
Figure 5: Employer responses to unfilled vacancies, per cent
Source: NSC, Survey of Employers who Recently Advertised, unpublished data
Notably, employers were more likely to restructure the organisation (7% of employers), give up on filling the position (6%) or change the position requirements (5%) rather than change remuneration (less than 1% of employers).
Employers in the Manager occupation group were most likely to undertake a restructure of the organisation in response to unfilled vacancies, followed by employers in Professional occupation group and Sales Worker occupations.
Worth noting is that the SERA questionnaire focusses on a single vacancy (at a point in time) and does not, for example, ask about all actions taken in the past year to resolve an unfilled position. For example, the June 2022 Business NSW Workforce Skills Survey found that 47% of businesses reported increasing wages, salaries or bonuses for existing staff to addresses workforce shortages in the last 12 months. That is, it is possible that a greater share of employers have, over time, needed to adjust remuneration in order to fill positions relative to the results reported through the NSC’s SERA survey for a specific vacancy.
The historical analysis provides a broad trend only and focused on pre-COVID 19 pandemic years to avoid including occupations that fell into shortage due to the economic impacts of COVID 19.