2022 Skills Priority List Key Findings Report
Spotlights on selected occupations
The above section of the report identifies a common finding: occupational shortages have tended to be in Professionals and Technicians and Trades Workers occupation groups. In this final piece of the report, three brief case studies are provided relating to occupations within these major occupation groups.
4.1 Shortages surge for Health Professionals
Within the Professionals group, the proportion of Health Professional occupations in shortage went up by 47 percentage points in 2022 – the largest of any sub major group. As shown in Figure 7, the number of suitable applicants for Health Professionals almost halved between the SPL 2021 research period (July 2020 to March 2021) and the SPL 2022 research period (July 2021 to March 2022). Also, employers struggled to fill vacancies for these occupations, with around half of the vacancies for Health Professionals remaining unfilled. While Health Professional occupations are at a high skill level, requiring a high level of qualification and experience, which can pose barriers to job entry, the result appears mostly driven by the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The ABS reported that the Health Care and Social Assistance industry accounted for the largest share of people who changed jobs in the year ending February 2022 (12.2%).15 This may indicate that the Health Care and Social Assistance industry is experiencing workforce instability including a temporary redistribution of the Australian workforce in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as burn-out of workers.
On redeployment in response to the pandemic, an online survey with 7,846 respondents showed that during the height of the pandemic (August to October 2020), 21.5% of frontline healthcare workers increased their unpaid work hours, 16.8% were redeployed to a new work area, and 27.3% changed their work role.16 Regarding burn out, a survey (conducted in August to October 2020) showed that over 70% of healthcare workers experienced moderate to severe burn out.17 The impacts of redeployment and burn out could be lingering and/or ongoing as since the initial COVID-19 outbreak in Australia, there have been multiple waves of outbreaks of COVID-19.
Figure 7: Proportion of vacancies filled (%) and suitable applicants per vacancy (no.) for Health Professionals, 2021 and 2022 SPL research periods18
Source: NSC, 2022 and 2021 Skills Priority List.
Registered Nurses (ANZSCO 2544) are the largest employing occupation in the Health Care and Social Assistance industry. All Registered Nurse occupations, at the six-digit ANZSCO level, were in shortage on the 2022 SPL. A broad range of other Health Professional occupations, including General Practitioners and specialists were also in shortage.
The demand for Health Professionals has strengthened considerably in recent years. The number of advertised vacancies for these workers has increased significantly since early 2020, more than doubling to be at an historical peak in July 2022.19 Furthermore, Health Professional occupations are predicted to experience moderate to high demand over the next five years. These findings are consistent with population ageing in Australia, placing upward pressure on demand for Health Professionals going forward.
4.2 Apprentice-trained Technicians and Trades Workers remain in shortage
Within the Technicians and Trades Worker occupation group, the estimated vacancy fill rate was particularly low for occupations in Automotive and Engineering Trades, Construction Trades, Electrotechnology and Telecommunications Trades. Supply of workers for these trade groups is often through an apprenticeship training pathway, which aligns broadly with a Skill Level 3 rating in ANZSCO. The greatest variance of estimated fill rates occurred within the Technicians and Trades Worker group, with high vacancy fill rates estimated for some occupations, and low vacancy fill rates estimated for others.
Overall, Skill Level 3 Technicians and Trades Workers had much lower estimated vacancy fill rates compared with the Skill Level 2 cohort of Technicians and Trades Worker occupations (Figure 8). This potentially indicates that employers are having difficulty filling vacancies for positions that require an apprenticeship training pathway and provides some explanation for the variance of estimated fill rates within the broader Technicians and Trades Workers occupation group.
Figure 8: Count of Technician and Trades Worker Occupations assessed for the 2022 SPL per fill rate range by Skill Level
Source: NSC, 2022 Skills Priority List
Moreover, 59% (84 of 143) of Skill Level 3 Technician and Trades Worker occupations were in shortage on the 2022 SPL, compared with just 20% (11 out of 56) of Skill Level 2 occupations.20 Shortages also appear to be more persistent over time among the Skill Level 3 group of Technicians and Trades Worker occupations. Last year, over half (52%) were in shortage.21 In addition, 11 occupations that were in shortage in 2021 and 2022 were also found to be consecutively in shortage in the 5 years to 2019, based on analysis undertaken by the Department of Education, Skills and Employment (and its predecessors).
4.3 Teachers: a tightening labour market
The labour market has tightened for Education Professionals in recent years. There has been a sharp decline in suitable applicants for Education Professionals, including Early Childhood (pre-primary school) Teachers, Primary School Teachers, and Secondary School Teachers. As shown in Figure 9, the number of suitable applicants (per vacancy) for Education Professionals more than halved for the 2022 SPL research period, compared with the SPL 2021 research period.22 Also, employers had much more difficulty filling vacancies for these occupations in 2022 compared to 2021. It is also worth noting that the estimated fill rate for Vocational Education Teacher/Polytechnic Teacher declined significantly over the past year, from more than 70% in 2021 to less than 50% in 2022.
Figure 9: Proportion of vacancies filled (%) and suitable applicants per vacancy (no.) for Education Professionals, 2021 and 2022 SPL Research Periods
Source: NSC, 2022 and 2021 Skills Priority List.
However, analysis suggests that the number of graduates who are trained and qualified as Primary School and Secondary School teachers in the Australian labour market should be sufficient to meet demand.23 This highlights the complexities of occupational skills shortages in Australia, and that a supply of trained professionals may not necessarily translate to an adequate supply to meet labour market needs.
The ‘true’ supply of workers for teaching occupations may be influenced by a range of other factors including but not limited to workplace conditions,24 remuneration and perceptions of remuneration,25 impacts on wellbeing and mental health,26 skills wastage and attrition such as loss of qualified teachers to other occupations. Worth noting is that the median age for the teaching workforce was 40 years in 2021, which is similar to that of Professional occupations but is older compared with some other occupation groups such as Sales Worker, which has a median age of 29 years.27 However, 16% of teachers are aged over 60 years and are likely to retire in the next five to ten years.28
The Department of Education’s Next Steps: Report of the Quality Initial Teacher Education Review, 2021 highlighted that a recurring theme in many of the submissions to the review was the need for greater insight into the factors that influence teachers' decisions to leave the profession for both early career teachers and other teachers. If supply and demand is to be fully understood, greater insight into teacher attrition rates across the teaching lifecycle is needed.29
Australia’s Education Ministers held a Teacher Roundtable on 12 August and agreed to develop a National Teacher Workforce Action Plan, that includes Better understanding future teacher workforce needs as one of its five priority areas for action.30 Better data and evidence is also a focus of the Implementation and Evaluation Plan for the National Children’s Education and Care Workforce Strategy, released by the Australian Children's Education & Care Quality Authority (ACECQA) in September 2022.31 Following the National Jobs and Skills Summit, the Australian Government agreed to develop a comprehensive blueprint with key stakeholders to support and grow a quality VET teacher workforce.32
Smallwood et al. Occupational Disruptions during the COVID-19 Pandemic and Their Association with Healthcare Workers' Mental Health, September 2021
Smallwood et al. High levels of psychosocial distress among Australian frontline healthcare workers during the COVID-19 pandemic: a cross-sectional survey, September 2021
Research period for 2021, July 2020 to March 2021; Research period for 2022, July 2021 to March 2022.
The changes to ABS ANZSCO classification and the increase of SPL scope means that the Occupations on the 2022 SPL do not align exactly with the occupations on the 2021 SPL.
Research period for 2021 is July 2020 to March 2021; Research period for 2022 is July 2021 to March 2022.
Department of Education, Skills and Employment, 2020 Section 14 Award course completions - Department of Education, Skills and Employment, Australian Government (dese.gov.au); Department of Education, Skills and Employment, Australian Government (dese.gov.au), Completion Rates of Higher Education Students - Cohort Analysis, 2005-2020 ; Productivity Commission Schools Workforce - Research report (pc.gov.au), 2012.
Teacher Workforce Shortages – Issues Paper, Department of Education, Skills and Employment, August 2022; National Children’s Education and Care Workforce Strategy Shaping Our Future: A ten-year strategy to ensure a sustainable, high-quality children’s education and care workforce 2022–2031 (acecqa.gov.au)
Information about the Quality Initial Teacher Education Review - Department of Education, Skills and Employment, Australian Government (dese.gov.au)
Survey data from the Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership (Workforce Characteristics Report, December 2021) found 25% of teachers intend to leave the profession before retirement and a further 34% were considering doing so. Of those, 60% cent said it was because teaching was affecting their wellbeing or mental health.
Australian Teacher Workforce Data: National Teacher Workforce Characteristics Report December 2021
Department of Education, Skills and Employment, Next Steps: Report of the Quality Initial Teacher Education Review, 29 October 2021
Department of Education, Skills and Employment, Education Ministers Meeting Communique, 12 August 2022
Australian Children's Education & Care Quality Authority, The National Children’s Education and Care Workforce Strategy (2022-2031)