Minister’s Foreword

A world-leading country such as Australia needs a world-leading workforce, and world-leading skills need world-leading training and development systems.

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It is clear Australia’s continued prosperity depends on a workforce that has the right skills to meet the demands of both our economy and our community as well as the agility to rise to the opportunities presented by emerging industries.

Australia holds an enviable position with a strong, resilient economy and high quality of life. Despite the pandemic, the Australian labour market has rebounded with employment and participation at record highs and the unemployment rate falling to a low of 4.0 per cent in February 2022. This is a remarkable achievement given the difficult environment and is a clear sign our workforce has adapted responsively and with creative ingenuity. Of course, new challenges likely await us in an ever-changing labour market.

High levels of recruitment activity continue, with the National Skills Commission’s Internet Vacancy Index — a key forward indicator of employment growth — now 60.4 per cent above its pre-COVID level.

The Reserve Bank of Australia has noted the resilience of our economy and jobs market and anticipates that the unemployment rate will fall below 4 per cent in 2022. The rest of the world is also moving fast toward recovery. This is why the Government is committed to readying Australia’s workforce for the future.

This National Workforce Strategy will guide the national effort to secure the workforce we need today and tomorrow—to ensure we are equipping Australians with the skills they need to get a job and keep a job.

The Strategy has five guiding principles:

  1. Use data to create transparency of the current and future workforce.
  2. Equip Australians with in-demand skills and focus employment services on outcomes.
  3. Remove barriers and disincentives to work.
  4. Activate industry to design and drive change.
  5. Target migration to fill skills and labour gaps.

The Strategy is built on and delivered using an evidence base. We will use and share data to identify and address workforce shortages and growth opportunities and work with industry to ensure our interventions are genuine solutions.

The Government is using data to drive decisions— and we’ll be open and transparent about it—however, we also expect states, territories, and industry to do the same.

Information sharing will contribute to development and growth whilst informing individual work and career choices. It will help to ensure we can provide our workforce with the right skills, training, and education for career pathways—to fill the right roles, in the right places.

It is imperative that Australian businesses and Australian workers can gain access to the right skills and training at the right time. Industry will be a key partner in designing and driving change for their employees and in their workplaces.

The Government’s ambitious skills reform, higher education reform, commitment to child care and record funding to schools all help pave the way to create a pipeline of skilled workers now and into the future.

We know the importance of investing in skilling our workforce, but there continue to be barriers across our society—visible and invisible—that stand in the way of Australians achieving their aspirations and building our workforce. The Government is investing in a major reform of employment services and has an ambition to achieve better outcomes for women, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and people with disability.

The Strategy focuses on reducing barriers to workforce participation and boosting productivity through innovation and design to drive change. It is deliberate in that Government is not contemplating changes to industrial relations policy and workplace law.

We are working with a new, complex workforce policy landscape. Increased technology use, a shift to higher skilled jobs and automation all present challenges in ensuring Australia’s workforce can match demand in years to come.

Australia will need to fill more than one million new jobs by November 2026. Developing skills is the Government’s highest priority, however we are still going to see a shortfall of skilled workers in higher skilled and services jobs.

The Strategy is designed to drive the creation of industry-specific workforce strategies. It will encourage the use of sector-specific expertise, while ensuring the country moves in concert with global skills developments. Australia needs an effective and targeted skilled migration program, and the Strategy will drive policy settings for our country’s needs.

All of us need to work towards the same goal, equipping Australians with the skills and resources they need to obtain sustainable and satisfying employment.

Now is the time to build our workforce of the future and ensure that all Australians can play a part in it. Now is the time to hold ourselves accountable for building the best workforce of the future. Now is the time to address the barriers to skilling and work for some members of our community. Now is the time to work together to ensure our skills pathways and workforce strategies operate in concert.

That’s why this Strategy is so critical to our success. This is a uniting Strategy, designed to galvanise all Australians to meet the challenges ahead and thrive.

Let’s get to work, because Australia’s best days lie ahead.

Hon Stuart Robert MP

Former Minister for Employment, Workforce, Skills, Small and Family Business

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Hon Stuart Robert MP