By Jane Garcia
The Australian government sector is well aware of skills shortages in the areas of IT, finance, engineering, planning and welfare, but skilled policy officers are also hard to find, according to recruitment firm Hudson’s sector head of Government, Education and Public Health.
“I think the reason is bound in with the ageing workforce which is normally up to five to seven years higher in the public sector than it is in the private sector. We haven’t been renewing or replenishing the skills in the public sector in this area and, interestingly, it’s one of the areas where we’re being asked to supply a lot more people on time contracts rather than permanent positions,” he says.
“It is also an area that I would suggest the experienced baby boomers might be enticed back to, not on a full-time basis but on a specific project.”
Mr Baker says procurement departments are experiencing a similar situation, with recruitment demands for experienced procurement people at the upper management level. He has not detected an urgent public sector need for procurement professionals at the lower levels, but says the demand may be masked because employers could just advertise for support positions without necessarily nominating them as procurement.
“Any trade or technician – I use technician in a broad labour market sense – have been in short supply for so long that everybody’s hunting for them,” Mr Baker says.
“In fact, it is the poor public sector who has maintained the recruitment and training of apprentices and pays the penalty because it doesn’t retain them. It loses them because of bigger dollars being paid elsewhere. Government utilities in particular would be able to verify that situation.”
A recent Hudson survey found 65 per cent of government employers rated university qualified professionals as being in high demand over the coming six months. He says tension will be created with the number of new entrants into the Australian job market – regardless of being university graduates or not – going backwards rapidly.
“If you are an organisation that pulls in 100 new graduates now, in 10 years’ time you might be lucky to get 10 because of the way the demography and the demand for skills is running,” Mr Baker says.
“Having said that, government agencies usually attract and employ a higher proportion of university graduates than almost any other industry, if you include education and public health.
“The high demand for university professionals will continue. It has been stated by the Federal Government that this is their prime target group and they are perhaps the biggest recruiters in undergraduate recruitment programs, with players like the defence forces, various federal agencies and all state governments.”
For more on the procurement profession and government employment trends see the April edition of Government News magazine.
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