Retail recruitment specialist Rob Lake writes:

We hear of a skills shortage in the
Australian workforce, but it seems to be a concept that is spinning its wheels,
unable to gain any traction. It’s an
issue on the back burner, a bit like that of aging Baby Boomers, and
not totally unrelated.

Recently we’ve seen glimpses of
the issue and what some in the headhunting field call the War for

  • ABS figures released last month show job
    dropped 3.7% in the three months to November.

  • Internet
    job board Seek recently reported rising advertisement volumes, but with falling advertisement response

  • Brumby’s
    Bakeries announced recently that they have recruited 20 Vietnamese
    bakers to work in their Australian stores. Unable to source bakers
    locally they have cooperated with William Angliss to train bakers,
    building on the French baking traditions that are still around in

Trade skills have been
diminishing. The demise of government-owned railways and water, electricity & gas utilities etc has meant the loss
of thousands of apprenticeships. The
privatised equivalents just do not seem interested in hiring and training kids
and we have coupled this with a society moving away from trade education,
preferring tertiary.

In about a decade from now, a
skilled plumber will be hard to find; and those you do find will be able to name
their price. It will be hard enough
finding a plumber willing to work in the nice front of wall jobs. Heaven help you if something is blocked and
you need a plumber willing to work waist deep in sh*t. Perhaps we should pitch a reality show to
Eddie McGuire called Waist Deep in Sh*t in which the prize is a plumber’s
services. A big prize and good novelty value; by 2020 it could be a winner.

In some sectors, even the best-written,
well-placed employment ad will not attract any suitable candidates. Almost any
employer can tell you how hard it is getting. And it’s not just the traditional trade
skills that are getting thin on the ground

Several Australian retailers have
been forced to recruit overseas to fill a role called analyst planner. Analyst planners work with buyers (who decide
what to buy) to manage the timing and dimension issues (how many, determining the
colour and size mix, when to get them and how many for each store). Retail, in the last decade, is a sector
moving from being quite seat-of-the-pants to become more skilled. Australia is not training enough skilled
people for these roles.

Headhunting will become the norm,
and we will see steepening upward pressure on salaries in some