What employers are looking for

As the jobs market recovers from the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, it is more important than ever to understand what employers are looking for. From January to June 2021, employers who had recruited in the previous month received an average of 14 applicants for every vacancy advertised online.

Generally, employers are looking for someone with the whole package: the right qualifications are typically essential and work experience is often a pre-requisite. Also, do not forget your employability skills! National Skills Commission (NSC) data suggests that employers may be willing to compromise on some things, depending on the type of job, but not on others. For example, an employer may hire someone as a Checkout Operator without any work experience but will insist on good teamwork and communication skills.

Education and training

Overall, work is becoming more highly skilled. Most jobs in the future will require a Vocational Education and Training (VET) or university qualification. In 2020, over two-thirds of Australians aged 20-64 years (69% or 10.4 million people) had a non-school qualification (a certificate, diploma, or degree). This has increased from 57% or 6.7 million people in 2005.

Completing Year 12 (or equivalent) is the minimum requirement for most employers, however, many are seeking people with post-school qualifications.

University is not the only pathway to a good job. Apprenticeships, traineeships, diplomas, or certificate III or IV level qualifications will also set you up for a stable and rewarding career. If you are considering a VET course or qualification, the best type of training is related to the job you want to do. But don’t do training for the sake of it! For example, Personal Carers often require certificates in food handling and first aid, but one certificate I (or several) may not help in the long-term. A certificate III or higher qualification will likely include the relevant training, along with a range of other units of competency that are important for this occupation.

In response to COVID-19, new short courses or ‘micro-credentials’, are also available to help you upskill (check out courseseeker.edu.au to search and compare available courses). These short courses can be a good way to gain new skills relevant to the jobs in demand.

Experience

Workplace experience is another important quality highlighted in the results of the NSC’s employer surveys. All jobs will give you valuable experience and help you develop vital employability skills. Regardless of the job, you will gain an understanding of what is expected in the workplace and be able to demonstrate to employers that you are committed to work, reliable and trustworthy. Most importantly, it gives you a foot in the door and provides you with an opportunity to build your network and gain referees.

Experience can be gained through part-time, casual, or temporary jobs, work experience placements, internships or even by volunteering.

What if you do not have any work experience?

If you don’t have any work experience, think about other ways to demonstrate your skills that could be relevant. NSC employer survey findings indicate you could provide examples from your school activities or work on group projects, working with your local sports club, even participating in debating, theatre or dance performances or chess competitions. Employers are also very encouraged by young people who participate in the community or volunteering activities.

There are also some jobs for which employers are more likely to consider someone without previous experience, such as Fast Food Cooks, Packers and Pharmacy Sales Assistants. Research conducted by the NSC indicated these jobs, along with General Sales Assistants and Checkout Operators, are routinely in demand.

Sources: ABS, Education and Work, Australia, May 2020; National Skills Commission, Recruitment Experiences and Outlook Survey, weighted data, 2021; National Skills Commission, Survey of Employers’ Recruitment Experiences, 2018.