Future Skills in Australia – Local government and workforce perspectives

The Local Government Workforce Development Group (LGWDG) comprises representatives from each state and territory Local Government Association and provides advice on workforce matters to the Australian Local Government Association. The LGWDG undertook this study to identify the current and emerging skill needs of Local Government to better position the sector for the future.

The way we do business, connect, socialise, travel, and live is changing.
The world of work in the next two decades will be shaped by technological advances, digital connectivity, globalisation, an ageing population and changing economic structures. These five mega trends are driving the speed of change and are expected to lead to the restructuring of labour markets throughout Australia, including local government.4
Local government is already feeling the impact of these trends; yet the majority of councils have not done any form of analysis or forecasting to determine the changing future roles/skills required.
This report provides a snapshot of the Australian local government workforce profile and the key issues in relation to current and emerging skill shortages and training delivery and uptake. It illustrates that local government has a workforce that:
• Is considerably older than the Australian All-industry workforce;
• Has a declining participation level of workers under 30 years of age;
• Does not have enough apprentices to meet future needs;
• Is facing major skills shortages in key professional and technical occupations; and
• Is not well positioned in regard to new and emerging soft skills.
In order to address skill shortages, the preferred option of councils is to upskill existing staff – but there are challenges, given:
• The inability to source trainers to deliver locally;
• The cost of sending staff away to training (travel costs);
• The high cost of training and tight fiscal environment; and
• The reported reluctance of councils to release staff to training given current workloads.
Local government in Australia features:
• A workforce of 189,500 workers employed in 394 occupations;
• 537 councils which vary enormously in geographic area, population base and number of workers employed;
• 55% of councils located in Rural Remote or Regional areas;
• A workforce where 68% are full-time employees, 16% are part-time and 16% are casual;
• A low average unplanned turnover of 8.3%;
• A much older workforce than the Australian All-industry workforce, with 53.7% above 45 years of age in local government compared to an average of 40.6% across all-industries;
• An ongoing decline in the representation of employees under 30 years of age;
• An increasingly qualified workforce, with 44.7% of employees holding a Diploma or
higher-level qualification in 2016 compared to 31.2% in 2006; and
• A significant decline in apprentices of 63.2% between 2012 to 2017, three times greater than the 21.6% decline experienced by all-industries in Australia.
Findings from the Survey reveal:
• 69% of local governments were experiencing a skill shortage and skill gaps with Engineers, Urban and Town Planners, Building Surveyors, Environmental Health Officers, and Project Managers topping the list of occupations in demand;
• The key reasons behind the skills shortage are the inability of councils to compete with the private sector on remuneration; lack of suitably qualified/experienced candidates available locally; high demand across the labour market for certain occupations; and remoteness/location making it difficult for councils to attract and retain workers;
• 60% of local governments have unmet training needs arising from the high cost of training and lack of training available locally;
• 70% of local governments have done no analysis or forecasting of changing roles/skills requirements arising from digital disruption and technology changes;
• All local governments responding to the Survey indicated the need to improve their position in relation to soft skills, particularly the ability to work productively, drive engagement and demonstrate presence as a member of a virtual team; ability to understand concepts across multiple disciplines; and digital skills;
• Training availability, budgetary constraints and time constraints were the most commonly cited factors hindering staff gaining softs skills; and
• In the future councils are predicting an increase in use of part-time workers; a slight increase in the use of full-time and casual workers; and a decrease in the use of labour hire arrangements.
Within this context, this Report seeks to highlight the current and future skill needs of the local government sector within Australia and suggests strategies for improving future workforce capacity and capability.

Chosen excerpts by Job Market Monitor. Read the whole story at Local Government Workforce and Future Skills Report Australia – Australian Local Government Association


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