Future Workforce: Now Is the Time to Act

Download the full documentfile_download

The Western Australian economy has continued to perform strongly with the May unemployment rate at 3.1%, which is the lowest rate across all jurisdictions in Australia. In addition, WA has the second highest employment to population ratio at 67.5%, which is behind only Northern Territory’s rate of 71.3%. However, amid this labour market boom, there are underlying systematic issues that if left unaddressed will hinder WA’s capability to meet future skill needs and become a handbrake on the state’s economic growth. Further, there remains considerable disparity in the economy in relation to the labour market, educational attainment, housing, and digital access.

During economic downturns and in boom periods, we often forget individuals who are marginally attached to the labour market (e.g. underemployed, people wishing to re‐enter the workforce, people not looking for work but who have the capacity to do so). It is only now, when skill shortages are so dire, that we turn our attention to all potential sources of labour supply. To reduce economic and social disparity, we should ensure that people are not left behind in the labour market, regardless of economic fluctuations.

The Committee for Perth’s Race to the Top report focuses on addressing WA’s immediate labour and skills shortages and examines ways to prepare the workforce to meet future skill needs. The report contains a 3‐year roadmap of 14 recommendations to be implemented through to 2024. The recommendations focus on three key outcomes: removing barriers to labour supply; attracting workers to WA; and implementing an integrated approach to workforce planning.

Critically, we recommend that a new body be established to oversee an integrated approach between government, industry, and education providers. Modelled on Infrastructure Western Australia, we propose that Future Employment WA be established to provide independent advice to the WA Government on workforce planning—so critical is this issue to the state’s economic and social prosperity. Informed decisions about education and training, and future skill needs cannot be made without adopting a strategic approach to investing in data integration, modelling, and dissemination of information (e.g. education and training pathways, emerging skills, and future employment projections) to individuals, businesses, and governments in a timely manner.

3‐year roadmap to prepare the WA workforce to meet future skill needs

Source: Committee for Perth (2022)

Having a skilled and adaptive workforce for the future requires collaboration between individuals, education sectors, employers, unions, community service providers and governments to address systemic issues (e.g. housing affordability, digital divide, and low level of educational attainment for some equity groups). It is time to act and put in place a plan that will take WA’s workforce into the future.

Without this collaboration and planning, WA will experience more of the same problems—not enough workers when times are good or too many unemployed workers when the economy slows.

Read more about Race to the Top.

Published in Business News 8 August 2022

Acknowledgement of Country

The Committee For Perth acknowledges the traditional custodians throughout Western Australia and their continuing connection to the land, waters and community. We pay our respects to all members of the Aboriginal communities and their cultures; and to Elders both past and present.