Skills shortages hitting agricultural industries

The National Skills Commission’s Skills Priority List shows a significant tightening in the Australian labour market.

THE recent release of the National Skills Commission’s Skills Priority List showed a “significant tightening in the Australian labour market”, with the lowest unemployment rate in decades, and shortages facing most parts of the agriculture industry.

NSW Farmers workplace relations chair Chris Stillard said a growing population – both in Australia and abroad – meant a growing need for food, and therefore a growing need for workers.

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But he said there was also a need for government to better understand the important role agriculture plays.

“Everyone you talk to in agriculture either needs workers or knows someone who does, and that’s not going to get better unless we take direct action,” Mr Stillard said.

“The immediate solution is to make Australia a destination of choice for overseas workers who can fill those roles now, either short-term backpackers or medium term visa holders.

“Long-term, we need to look at designing suitable programs to develop the skills of Australians to fill these roles, because there are great jobs with great wages just waiting to be done.”

While some still think of agriculture as farmers driving around in tractors and milking cows by hand, Mr Stillard said the reality of modern primary production meant there were job opportunities from IT to engineering, applied sciences and working with animals.

“Modern agriculture is a really diverse industry and we don’t just have tractor drivers and stockhands any more, we’ve got mechanics and drone pilots and network engineers as well.

“People need to eat and agriculture is where that food comes from, so for future generations of Aussie workers they can be outstanding in any field while they’re out standing in a field!”

Regional Job Vacancies

According to this week’s National Skills Commission (NSC) data, almost one third of advertised job vacancies are in regional Australia.

Regional Australia Institute (RAI) CEO Liz Ritchie said August data shows 309,000 job advertisements nationally, of which 91,000 are in the regions.

“When accounting for unadvertised jobs, which are often low-skilled, temporary positions, we know this number could be doubled or even tripled,” Liz Ritchie said.

The NSC’s Skills Priority List identifies national shortages across 286 occupations, up from 153 in 2021.

The most pronounced national shortages are in the areas of health care, trades, machinery operators and personal services such as aged care and childcare workers.

The shortages in these skills are biting hard in regional Australia and if left unaddressed threaten to widen the gap between city and country and see the regions miss out on valuable opportunities.

Two thirds of the regional vacancies are for managerial, professional, and qualified trades positions.

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