November 30, 2022

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First it was the fear that new technology would make their jobs redundant, but now employers are worried that young workers have no interest in these crucial roles.

From health care to trades, a number of pivotal careers are barely holding onto their staff as an employee exodus sweeps the workforce.

A number of industries with “ageing” populations are struggling to entice younger workers to seek a career in their sector.

And as more staff look towards retirement or perhaps a late career change, workforces are losing decades of experience for a lack of new employee interest in return.

Aged care sector hardest hit

Aged care is one service within the health sector facing a staff shortage crisis, with Seek recording a 33 per cent year-on-year increase in nursing job ads.

A report by the Committee for Economic Development of Australia (CEDA) found that unless action is taken now, the shortage will see more than 400,000 vacant positions by 2050.

National President of the Health Services Union Gerard Hayes describes the situation as “the pandemic of the workforce” where supply is far from meeting demand.

“Aged Care is an area where it’s intense work, it’s well suited to a vocation and people get a lot of satisfaction out of it, but there’s perceptions within the community that it may not be for them which is generally unfounded,” Mr Hayes told news.com.au.

Insufficient training and low wages are two factors driving interest away from the job as well as making it difficult to retain current staff.

“There’s a great market (for young staff) there,” Mr Hayes said. “But now with the pandemic and the cost of living going up, people have got to make choices, not only on the work that they’re doing but the finances that’s coming from that work.”

“I’m very fearful that if we can’t address this in the right way there could be catastrophic consequences.”

The automotive trade is ageing

Automotive trades, which includes spray painters, mechanics, car detailers among other light and heavy vehicle roles, are also in short supply of young workers.

According to career site Zippia, 45 per cent of the industry’s current working population are over the age of 40, while 34 per cent of employees stay in their role for less than one year.

With a high turnover rate in addition to older workers retiring, the automotive trade is the most in-demand role on Seek, with just under five thousand jobs currently on offer.

“Job ads are 6 per cent higher quarter-on-quarter and 24 per cent higher year-on-year (with) June job ads reaching a record high in this category,” a spokesperson for Seek said.

Manufacturing roles cripple under pressure

Some not so obvious trades, such as metal-sheet cutting which isn’t typically taught at schools, are too facing the pinch as a worker shortage cripples the vocation.

Australian Manufacturing Workers’ Union (AMWU) NSW and ACT State Secretary Cory Wright says a lack of apprenticeships on offer in these areas are preventing new talent from entering the workforce.

“For a long time, we’ve seen TAFE and vocational education underfunded and undervalued, and businesses relying on others to train the workers they need,” Mr Wright told news.com.au.

“For example …(the sheet metal) trade is crucial to construction – cutting, forming, and shaping things like ducted airconditioning, or just about anything else that’s required – and we’re seeing major commercial projects being held up because of that skills shortage, and businesses even put at risk.”

Unions call on the government

Both Mr Hayes from the Health Services Union and AMWU’s Mr Wright are calling on the government to work together with unions and key players within the industry to “lead the conversation” out of the worker-shortage crisis.

Pay rises, enhanced training and promoting the importance of employing qualified workers are some of the suggestions the two union representatives have for their respective sectors.

My Hayes said the Fair Work Commission is currently working on the government’s request to increase wages in the aged care sector by 25 per cent, but agrees that minimum-cost training will also go a long way in encouraging young people to pursue a career in the service.

“It’s really a matter of engaging young people through a positive education program,” Mr Hayes said.

Meanwhile, Mr Wright said he has received feedback from employers stating they want to set a benchmark so that unqualified employees aren’t being put before qualified tradespeople.

“We need more certainty about training and the standard we want apprentices to meet,” Mr Wright said. “There is an entire business model around the use of non-qualified workers, which allows businesses to pay their workforce less and undercut other businesses.”

“It’s a race to the bottom that puts the future of our skills and industrial capability at risk.”

Originally published as Struggling industries’ bid to hire young talent as detrimental shortage sweeps nation

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