Peter Costantini OAM, Managing Director
This week’s Jobs and Skills Summit has generated enormous interest for each of the key themes being tackled:
- Maintaining full employment and growing productivity.
- Boosting job security and wages.
- Lifting participation and reducing barriers to employment.
- Delivering a high-quality labour force through skills, training, and migration.
- Maximising opportunities in the industries of the future.
There is something in these discussions for everyone.
There is not a day that goes by when we don’t hear about the labour and skills shortages business are facing right now, and predictions of future shortages from each of our key sectors – all on the back of record low unemployment rates and Covid-19 induced low temporary, student, and skilled migration.
Productivity improvement has been in the too hard basket for a long time but is essential if we want to maintain our international competitiveness and living standards. So too, reducing barriers to employment, lifting the nation’s skills and education levels, and improving job security and wages – all contribute to the quality of life for Australians.
There has been a lot of lead up work with Ministers holding over 100 pre-Summit events on areas within their portfolios that relate to the Summit themes. The Albanese government has encouraged strong bipartite participation and we have seen the intrigue of the peak associations and unions using these fora to advance a range of positions.
It seems this approach may pay off with reports of deals being reached to take to the Summit in areas including skilled migration, enterprise, and multi-industry bargaining (and a shared compromise on the previously entrenched ‘better off overall test’), expanding apprenticeships in technology jobs, and measures to narrow gender pay gaps.
Even in industries with historically entrenched positions like the electrical sector, the peak bodies Master Electricians Australia and the ETU have aligned their views on skilled migration to help resolve an estimated shortfall, above current growth rates, of up to 9,000 additional licensed electricians over the next five years.
Of course, the Summit is not without its detractors worried about the vested interests of participants and that it will be a talkfest without being able to deliver the policy and legislative change, or even the budget for reforms required. The lack of small and medium businesses directly participating is raised as another concern.
Personally, I am quietly optimistic that we will see solid recommendations in many key areas, and it will be a huge job for Treasurer Jim Chalmers to take the key Summit recommendations into consideration for the October 25th budget.