Job vacancy hits high, clearing path to new fields

record job vacancies, the venture magazineJob vacancy in Australia recently hit an all-time high, according to Australian Bureau of Statistics data. For the quarter ending in November, vacancies rose 13.9 per cent over the previous year and unemployment was at 5.1 per cent. At first blush, this would seem to give employees a great deal of leverage in wage negotiations and job-seekers an easy go of things. But when something has as many moving parts as a national economy, it’s complicated. VENTURE takes a deeper look at what the numbers mean for workers, employers, and those looking to join the workforce.

Impact on Wages

With just 2.8 unemployed people per job vacancy — the lowest level since 2008 — the labour market is what analysts refer to as “tight.” With little competition for vacancies, job-seekers for the most part have to look for only a short time. Since employers’ demand for workers is high and the supply of available workers is relatively low, that should push wages up. Callam Pickering, an Asia-Pacific economist with Indeed, believes wages will rise but cautions that it won’t happen overnight.

“Some firms are reporting a greater difficulty in finding staff,” Pickering told Business Insider.

“With vacancies continuing to rise, these small pockets of tightness will hopefully become larger, encouraging businesses to offer higher wages and sweeter deals to job seekers.

“Nevertheless, the path towards higher wages will be slow, and we don’t anticipate a rapid improvement this year.”

Retaining Employees

One reason that would slow wage growth is that people are remaining in the jobs they currently hold, decreasing competition among hiring companies. That lack of movement is an indication people are happy in their occupations. A poll commissioned by work happiness consultancy Rise last year found that 56 per cent of respondents valued a sense of meaning in their jobs over salary, and half preferred good relationships with colleagues over wage increases. Between motivated workers being highly productive and low turnover rates saving money, companies with happy employees typically see an increase in their bottom lines. A poll by Robert Half staffing agencies in 2017 ranked Australian workers as the fourth happiest in the world.

So, what are companies doing to keep workers happy? Cosmetic retailer Mecca gives employees product allowances and subsidises personal training sessions. Financial service firm Macquarie Group offers healthy breakfasts, kids clubs, yoga, and special interest classes. Canva allows employees to complete tasks around their own working styles. If that’s at a desk or on a couch, in the morning or at night, no problem, as long as deadlines are met. Rise suggests fostering a sense of shared responsibilities by including employees in key decisions, respectful two-way feedback, and incentive programs as ways to keep employees happy.

Bridging the Gap

record job vacancies, the venture magazineAnother factor in wages and the job vacancy statistics is which jobs are available. Without a great deal of variance by state and territory, Australia’s highest paying jobs are in the fields of information technology, engineering, construction, and mining. Companies looking to hire in these areas often find a dearth of qualified candidates, or people interested in the work.

Training programmes and apprenticeships are therefore in the best interest of employers and job-seekers. The former want skilled workers to enable business growth, whilst the latter want to develop the skills necessary in high-paying jobs. Former minister for jobs and industrial relations Kelly O’Dwyer said last year the department is working on a new digital employment services model to help match candidates with employers.

The Australian Industry Group is working on facilitating skills training in the wake of its Workforce Development Needs. “Not only are employers experiencing greater challenges finding the skills they need, but for the first time, shortages were reported for key Industry 4.0 skills of business automation, big data, and artificial intelligence solutions,” Ai Group head Innes Willox told Manufacturing Monthly.

Ai Group, in conjunction with Siemens and Swinburne University of Technology, created a higher level apprenticeship programme to provide education and hands-on training for job-seekers in these fields. The initiative consists of a 22-week course at Swinburne and six months of on-the-job training at Siemens.

“Key to accelerating the diffusion of Industry 4.0 is ensuring there is a sufficient and growing supply of appropriately skilled people for businesses to draw on as they embrace Industry 4.0.  This involves industry and education and training organisations working closely to design and develop an appropriate range of training opportunities both for the existing and future workforce,” Willox said.

The project is partially funded by the government’s Skilling Australians Fund, which began in July 2017 and is making $1.5 billion available in its first five years for vocational education and training in in-demand fields such as digital technologies, engineering, construction, and manufacturing.

With critical training programmes such as these, workers will be able to secure high-paying jobs and employers will be able to quickly fill a job vacancy with highly skilled candidates, powering economic growth.