Industry bodies, startups and government rally to tackle Aussie worker shortages

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Industry associations, startups, businesses and the federal government are all rallying to upskill a new workforce in a bid to tackle Australia’s many skills gaps.

Employment services provider Asuria is working with a group of 25 industry associations to co-create sector-specific pathways to jobs, on behalf of the Department of Education, Skills and Employment.

The industry associations have signed an in-principle agreement to join the scheme, which is intended to tackle the shortage of job-ready Aussies and help fill vacancies in industries such as travel, retail and hospitality.

Elsewhere, hospitality training startup Barcats has partnered with global beverages company Diageo to provide hospitality training.

According to Barcats founder and chief Jeffrey Williams, attendees are being snapped up by venues just hours into the course.

Asuria has engaged former Liberal MP and Minister for Vocational and Technical Education Gary Hardgrave to work with the various industry associations, uniting them behind a plan to create and deliver a range of tailored training programs that will include Government Employment Skills Training designed to support Australia’s economic recovery.

The 25 industry associations span everything from the tourism and hotels industry to the fruit growing, aged care and even plumbing industries.

They include the National Retail Association, Master Grocers Australia, the Queensland Hotels Association, the Foodservice Suppliers Association and the NSW Business Chamber.

An additional 25 associations are supposedly in conversations with Asuria.

A more sustainable talent pool

This comes ahead of Australia reopening its borders to some 200,000 student and skilled migrant visas on Wednesday, December 1.

But that influx of visa-holders may not be enough to fill the skills gaps yet.

In an interview with Sky News Live Business Weekend on Sunday, Stuart Robert, Minister for Employment, Workforce, Skills, Small and Family Business, the combined number of skilled migrant, student and working holiday visa-holders entering the country annually was about 460,000.

He also noted that about 15% of the hospitality workforce has historically been made up of these visa holders. The idea is to now get more Aussies taking on those roles, Robert said.

“Yes, we’ll open our borders to skilled migrants coming through.

“But the first priority of the government … is getting Australians skilled and Australians into work.”

Speaking to SmartCompany, Williams says just as COVID-19 is a once-in-a-lifetime event, so is the worker shortage in hospitality.

Many temporary visa holders, who were not eligible for JobKeeper or other government support throughout the pandemic, have moved back to their home countries.

With the lack of student workers plus those who have left the industry, as we head towards the busy Christmas period, Williams estimates we have a shortfall of 250,000 workers in hospitality alone.

Diageo has invested $11.5 million into an Australian upskilling initiative to try to fill this gap.

For Barcats, that means training up Aussies of all ages to get back into the workforce.

“COVID-19 has taught us some valuable lessons,” Williams says.

“We need to really scale our homegrown talent first and foremost.”

The solution is not only creating pathways for young people to hospitality careers, it’s getting people from older generations confident working as baristas, waiting staff and cocktail mixologists.

International workers will “then play a topping-up role”, rather than being a contingent the industry heavily relies upon.

“We’ve got to think about this differently and be more sustainable in our approach.”

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