New ways of thinking...a national approach to workforce development

Local Government Managers Australia (LGMA), on behalf of the Australian Centre for Excellence in Local Government, is about to commence work on a National Local Government Workforce Strategy. The Strategy will be informed by ideas from Commonwealth, State and Local Government practitioners including Local Government associations, unions and professional peak bodies. It will focus on key workforce issues that must be tackled over the next decade, so there are pressing needs for the study.

According to LGMA Chief Executive John Ravlic, wage pressures are becoming a problem for all businesses that are not benefitting from the mining boom.

"Small businesses especially are finding it impossible to hire and retain good workers," he said. "They cannot compete with the high salaries and large workforce demands of big mining companies. Western Australian councils are particularly feeling demand pressures for talent.

"The Australian Bureau of Statistics estimates wages in the mining sector grew more than 20 per cent over the year to September 2010, outpacing national salary growth of about seven per cent.

"Since August, wages for chief engineers on mining projects have surged almost $30,000 to more than $270,000 a year. Administration staff have also enjoyed salary rises. Top administrative assistants in Western Australia can ask for as much as $62,000 per annum. Salaries like this make it very difficult for our sector to compete.

"A national approach to workforce development is required to maximise people's capabilities, lift productivity and increase workforce participation.

"New ways of thinking about skills and knowledge and their application in the workplace and the community is a future challenge for our nation as well as our sector. As we look towards ongoing economic recovery, employers are raising concerns about the risk that our economic growth will be constrained because of skills shortages."

Skills Australia is an independent statutory body, providing advice to the Minister for Education, Employment and Workplace Relations. It argues that increased productivity is not just dependent on the availability of skills but rather on how skills in individual workplaces are used.

Employers and employees report that skills are not being used to their full potential.

Skills Australia believes we can do better to prepare itself to meet its future skills needs and increase productivity by taking action to sustain economic growth and raise productivity by increasing skills and avoiding future skills shortages by: