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Where is your next worker? – Deloitte urges business to act on looming skill shortage


2 November 2011: Professional services firm Deloitte today launched a major discussion paper - Where is your next worker?- urging Australian businesses and government to act now to get ahead of the looming skill shortage.

The paper is the first to be published under Building the Lucky Country – Business Imperatives for a Prosperous Australia, a long-term Deloitte initiative to drive debate and action on issues critical to Australia’s future.

“A new reality looms. The problem in Australia over the coming years won’t be a lack of jobs – it will be a lack of workers,” said Deloitte CEO Giam Swiegers.

“Leading organisations have already realised this and are engaged in ideas and solutions to get ahead of the game.

“They are already developing larger, more effective workforces, tapping into underutilised workers, getting the most out of the workers who already work for them, and using innovative, new ways to leverage hidden sources of labour capacity.

“Those who respond early and effectively will be best placed to flourish. By making good decisions and executing them well, we can all generate the long-term prosperity we want for our country and our children,” he said.

Chris Richardson of Deloitte Access Economics commented: “The world is begging Australia to grow faster, offering us prices for our resources we have never seen before.

“Yet at the same time Australia has adopted policies that have seen migration fall, doing so just ahead of the biggest surge in retiree numbers this nation has ever seen. That means the next few years will see skill shortages proliferate.

“That will be felt right across the two speed economy. Miners and construction companies will miss out on the full benefit of the resources boom, and businesses will juggle higher-than-necessary interest rates and inflation, and pay higher wages and higher prices than otherwise for a wide range of skills.

“Things are about to change,” Mr Richardson continued. “Businesses need to realise that the future won’t be like the past. That the competition will be for workers, rather than jobs. That somebody already working for you is more valuable than they have been before. That letting somebody retire without exploring the options to keep them for longer may be a wasted and costly opportunity,” he said.

In this context, Where is your next worker? highlights the positive actions that business and policy makers can take to maintain momentum as workers become harder to find.

The discussion paper offers 12 ‘levers’ which businesses and government can use to solve the skills problems and boost growth prospects. They lie within a framework economists refer to as the “3Ps’ or the three supply side drivers of economic growth:

  • Population – as retiree numbers surge and migration rates fall, demand for labour will exceed supply. With competition to be for workers rather than jobs, business must consider innovative ways to access the skills and labour they need for today and tomorrow.
  • Participation – Businesses need to closely look at their participation and retention strategies if they are to address the skills shortage.
  • Productivity – Business leadership is critical. For example, some studies show employee disengagement costs more than $39 billion a year in lost productivity.

The 12 ‘levers’ cover a broad range of options for business and government and include:

  • Working with education providers to access future skills, and shaping courses to suit business needs.
  • Fully utilising one of Australia’s biggest untapped sources of competitive talent – women
  • Growing labour pools through skilled migration and considering outsourcing (‘importing’ a service)
  • Tempting retirees back to work – or encouraging them to stay on in the first place
  • Lifting the participation of groups such as indigenous workers, migrants and people with disabilities
  • Taking engagement to the next level, making existing employees the most productive workers of all
  • Using innovative solutions and technology, including ‘crowdsourcing’ to address business need.

Giam Swiegers acknowledged the issues were not straightforward and there was no ‘one size fits all’ solution.

“We know these issues are complex. They therefore warrant exploration of the broadest possible range of options, some of which might be considered contentious,” he said.

“We recognise that industries such as manufacturing and retail are struggling in the two-tier economy and cutting back on staff. However, even they won’t be immune from the coming skills crunch.

“We also recognise that the migration debate is a sensitive one. Even though skilled migrants more than pay their way and in fact generate wealth for our economy, the myth persists that migrants steal Australian jobs. Bringing more skilled migrants to Australia can help to fill the short-term skills gap.”

Giam Swiegers emphasised: “While there are key challenges for different businesses and industry sectors, Deloitte believes the answers are already there if people know where to look.

“Where is your next worker? is designed to sew the seed and to get business and government thinking about their future workforce, as well as innovation and fostering opportunities for collaboration,” he said.

Click here to receive the full report or access the website Building the Lucky Country to find out more about Where is your next worker?

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Simon Rushton
Job Title:
National Manager Corporate Affairs and Communications
Tel: +61 2 9322 5562; M: +61 450 530 748
Vessa Playfair
Deloitte Australia
Job Title:
Head of Corporate Affairs
Tel: +61 2 9322 7576, Mobile: +61 419 267 676




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