Transferable skills needed by more workers to help address labour shortages

  • The pandemic has shown that access to workers and worker mobility are important to meeting labour demand and skills transferability is critical to this.
  • Soft skills such as problem solving, digital competency, communication and teamwork are becoming increasingly important requirements across all jobs.
  • Up to four years after graduating, nearly a quarter of undergraduates and postgraduates continued to work in occupations which did not fully use their skills and education.

Workers need to be increasingly agile to meet the needs of employers with critical thinking, problem solving, teamwork and people management skills considered core competencies by most bosses, according to new research by the Committee for Perth.

The latest FACTBase Bulletin found that most occupations required these abilities along with literacy and numeracy skills, and certain skills which are specific to a job, such as in the medical or teaching profession, can be transferable within these occupations.

The research bulletin examines the level for which skills can be transferred between jobs to address skilled labour shortages.

Committee for Perth Chief Executive Officer Marion Fulker AM said preparing the future workforce in skills transferability was critical.

“We need to ensure university and VET graduates have those core skills which the vast majority of employers need, in addition to the specialist competencies specific to their area of training,” Mrs Fulker said.

She also said education providers, employers and students needed to collaborate to better prepare graduates for the workforce and ensure improved use of their skills.

The FACTBase Bulletin found a high proportion of employers were satisfied with university graduates’ broad attributes but believed their qualification could have better prepared them for employment particularly in areas such as technical and professional skills, domain-specific skills and knowledge and enterprise skills.

For Vocational Education and Training graduates, employers were satisfied with training as means to address their skill needs, however they were critical of a lack of focus on practical skills, lack of relevant skills taught and poor quality or low standard training.

Mrs Fulker said this suggested employers and education providers needed to work together to deliver a future workforce that can meet skills needs.

“We need to consider what the expected outcome is from post school education,” Ms Fulker said. “Is it to deliver a skilled labour force, or does education play a broader role in shaping the social and cultural knowledge of society?”

These sorts of discussions were critical to prepare the future workforce.

Additional findings from FACTBase Bulletin 80 were:

  • Despite university and VET graduates being employed, skills mismatch and under use of skills existed. This was most prevalent among recent graduates than those who had been working for three to four years.
  • A process is needed to better match graduates with jobs in which their qualifications were required.
  • Investment in job creation for graduates would help their transition to the skilled workforce and ensure better use of their skills.

FACTBase Bulletin 80 is the final of three papers to be delivered as part of the Committee’s Race to the Top major project.

Race to the Top examines current sources of labour supply in Western Australia, domestic and overseas, to identify where workers and skills are concentrated. This includes identifying factors that impact and the extent of the impact on labour supply including border restrictions, underemployment and education attainment.