Committee for Perth calls for a workforce strategy to address labour shortages

Western Australian businesses have called for a more strategic approach to managing local labour availability and quality to avoid the debilitating ‘boom and bust’ employment cycles.

Following a year of intensive research, the Committee for Perth’s latest research report ‘Race to the Top’ identifies the key issues contributing to the problem and provides clear recommendations for building a local workforce to enable economic and social prosperity.

The report identifies systemic issues limiting labour supply, a need to link all levels of education to facilitate a cohesive transition from education to work, and an integrated workforce strategy.

To address the critical skilled labour shortages and prepare the WA workforce for the future, a three-year roadmap with 14 recommendations to be implemented between now and 2024 is proposed. The roadmap contains recommendations to address the barriers to accessing workers, implement strategies to attract and retain workers, and develop an integrated workforce plan.

Immediate actions to increase the number of migrant workers include reducing visa processing time and temporary removal of labour market testing requirements. To ensure WA’s interests on migration are considered at the national level, a migration advocacy strategy for WA is needed.

Committee for Perth CEO Marion Fulker AM said to fuel WA’s future growth with a ready, willing, and able workforce, the report called for the WA Government to establish a workforce strategy body – ‘Future Employment WA’ – to provide advice and recommendations on building workforce capability and capacity.

“The Federal Government last week said it would prioritise legislation to establish Jobs and Skills Australia to address this issue at a national level,” Mrs Fulker said. “We need similar action at a State level.”

“Having consulted with our members, some of the State’s largest employers, the establishment of Future Employment WA was supported to address skill needs in the future,” Mrs Fulker said.

“Modelled on Infrastructure WA, it is proposed that Future Employment WA would adopt a holistic approach to skilling the future workforce by integrating workforce planning and migration.”

“It would also oversee the critical engagement and partnerships between schools, post-school education providers, Local and State Governments, unions, and industry.”

“Now is the time to take collective action to build the workforce for economic prosperity and societal benefit. Without this, there are obstacles ahead that will have a negative impact on the future,” she said.

The report has been welcomed by local industry leaders including Perth law firm Herbert Smith Freehills, aged care provider Brightwater and Wesfarmers each of whom have strongly supported calls for cross sector support to address the labour shortage issue.

Catherine Stoddart, Chief Executive Officer, Brightwater.

“As an industry facing ongoing labour shortages, being able to look at creative strategies to attract more potential staff is something we wholeheartedly support.

“We are an industry that has traditionally relied on a migrant workforce, so strategies to reduce migration red tape and attract a workforce to come and live and work in our beautiful state is essential.

“Never before have we seen such a critical labour shortage – something I know is not only true for us and others in our industry – but across a wide range of industries in WA.

“It has been estimated that Australia’s aged care industry will experience a shortfall of 35,000 workers per year if we don’t find a solution.

“As an organisation that cares for some of Western Australia’s most vulnerable people, it is essential that we, our industry colleagues and Government work together to address this challenge and ensure a sustained workforce for the future.”

Elizabeth Macknay, Herbert Smith Freehills, Managing Partner, Perth

“Race to the Top addresses critical skilled labour shortage issues currently facing Western Australian businesses. The report’s recommendations to build partnerships between government, industry and education providers will help drive the development of a sustainable future workforce for the State.”

Rob Scott, Wesfarmers, Chief Executive Officer

“Many companies across Australia are currently experiencing skill shortages, including at Wesfarmers where we are seeing a tight labour market in some industries such as technology, digital, construction, engineering and supply chain.

“In recent decades, Australia has benefitted from immigration, and it has been a core part of the successful growth and development of the country. We hope that we will see an increase in immigration to address some of the workforce shortages we are currently facing as a nation.

“As a company based in Perth, also with some parts of our businesses here, we hope to see the return of workers moving into Western Australia from other states after almost two years of border closures.

“We also need to invest further in skills development to help ensure we are able to meet job requirements over time.”

Michelle Tremain, Managing Partner, PwC Australia Perth

“Labour and skills shortages are impacting many of the businesses right around the country we support, and clearly Western Australia is not immune. Our state has a world of economic potential at its fingertips, but to capitalise on these opportunities we must have a strong, skilled and diverse workforce.

“This report recognises there’s no one quick fix to address our skilled labour shortage, and instead considers a more strategic and cohesive roadmap that lets everyone play a role in addressing this issue, from government, to education providers, to business.

“As one of the world’s largest professional services firms, not only are we at the coalface of helping businesses solve important challenges like these, but we are also grappling with a tight labour market of our own. That’s why we support and endorse this collective effort to address these systemic challenges and help reap the economic benefits of doing so.”