Education, Skills & Migration
Skills shortages, migration barriers, ageing population.
Issues that need to be addressed to ensure the future prosperity of South Australia.
A shortage of skilled personnel is our biggest business challenge
For many years now, skills availability has been a growing challenge facing regional businesses. Our 2020 Regional Voice Survey identified skills availability as the top issue facing both individual businesses and the regions overall. In our 2018 Regional Voice Survey, it was ranked second and in 2016, third. With border closures and a continued drain of younger people, the issue of sourcing labour and the necessary skills required has amplified this issue for regional businesses.
Since the onset of COVID-19, South Australia’s pronounced skills shortage has extended much further than the regions alone. South Australian Business Chamber’s March quarter 2021 Survey of Business Expectations found that the Agriculture, Forestry & Fishing, Manufacturing, and Construction sectors listed skills availability as the top of five issues affecting business; Accommodation & Food Retail and Professional, Scientific & Technical Services listed it as second to COVID-19 restrictions; and Retail Trade listed it as third.
Throughout 2020, most South Australian businesses found it progressively harder to source labour as the economy slowly reopened post lockdown — the reasons for this have been varied. The perfect storm created by government stimulus projects, the JobSeeker COVID-19 increase and JobKeeper slowing worker circulation, all contributed to the increase in skills shortages. For the agriculture sector, the closure of international borders meant the normal supply of backpackers and foreign workers for fruit picking was significantly reduced. For manufacturers and professional services businesses, sourcing industry specialists, who in many cases can only be found overseas, has been near impossible.
The inability to attract applicants to apprenticeships and traineeships, especially in regional areas, is an obstinate problem requiring more attention. More incentives, support, and flexible methods of training delivery are all required to assist South Australian businesses to succeed in training employees. South Australia’s skills challenges are also exacerbated by our ageing population, the effects of which will become increasingly detrimental to the growth and productivity of our State unless we make a more conscious effort to overtly target population growth.
Australia has consistently ranked behind most other OECD countries in terms of innovation-related collaboration between businesses and higher education/research institutions. While there have been attempts to foster collaboration in Australia, more needs to be done if Australia is to reach the level of collaboration experienced by leaders in this area.
The South Australian Business Chamber continues to advocate for the study of entrepreneurship to be embedded in the secondary school curriculum to ensure that starting a business is considered an option alongside tertiary education and trade level skills. The South Australian Business Chamber also recognises that learning does not end when you leave school or university. Businesses need to be able to support and develop skills in their workforce and ensure that the training system allows them to meet current and emerging skills needs.
Remove barriers to migration
While the South Australian Business Chamber recognises that travel bans currently restrict international migration, we encourage the State Government to look to the future to remove barriers to skilled and business migration.
South Australian Business Chamber urges the State Government to take a strong position to the Federal Government on:
- ensuring visa fees and arrangements are internationally competitive. For example, we encourage the State Government to pursue a policy of reducing the Skilling Australia Fund levy, which the South Australian Business Chamber and ACCI have argued should be halved for both temporary and permanent skilled employer nominated visas and that the refund criteria should be expanded to include any unsuccessful applications;
- ensure sufficient resources are allocated to address the extensive delays in the processing of visa applications, in particular in the labour agreement stream; and
- advocate for improved, more flexible migration processes and skilled migration occupation lists for permanent and temporary migration that are more responsive to industry needs.
In January 2014, then opposition leader Steven Marshall outlined a plan to increase migration to help South Australia reach 2 million by 2027. In November 2017, Deloitte Economics released its final report in the Shaping Future Cities — Make it Adelaide series which supported this claim. The Adelaide City Deal, which commenced in 2019, without setting a population target, recognised the need for population growth, and focused on the changes and growth factors required to obtain growth such as encouraging migration of workers, entrepreneurs and start-up companies, as well as focusing on improving amenities, services and urban renewal.
We are unlikely to meet the 2 million by 2027 target now and it is understood that simply setting a target will not lead to outcomes. The South Australian Business Chamber also recognises that an increase in population requires a holistic focus by the State Government including infrastructure, migration, and affordable living. While such factors have been a focus of successive South Australian Governments, it is time to accelerate these changes, delivering what is needed to ensure we have a State that people line up to live, work and grow businesses in. It is also time to develop a marketing campaign to complement a proactive and competitive population growth policy. Western Australia has just initiated one of its own and we can’t be left flat footed. Now we have the opportunity to genuinely leverage Adelaide’s superior liveability to interstate and international businesses, and skilled workers.
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Education, Skills and Migration Publications
The South Australian Business Chamber submission: South Australian Skills Regulations 2021 under the South Australian Skills Act 2008 and associated Draft Standards
The South Australian Business Chamber submission: Fair Work Amendment (Supporting Australia’s Jobs and Economic Recovery) Bill 2020
The South Australian Business Chamber submission: Training and Skills Development (Miscellaneous) Amendment Bill 2020
The South Australian Business Chamber submission: Review of South Australia’s Designated Area Migration Agreements (DAMAs)
The South Australian Business Chamber submission: Joint Standing Committee on Regional Migration
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