As we approach the end of this tumultuous calendar year and continue to battle with coronavirus in Australia and worldwide, what is the post-COVID employment outlook for the country, and particularly our industry sector?
Let’s take a look at some of the recent research and data released by government and private sources, as they track COVID’s impact. Australian Bureau of Statistics estimates for September 2020 show unemployment increased to 6.9%. In seasonally adjusted terms:
- The unemployment rate increased 0.1 pts to 6.9% (1.7 pts higher than a year ago)
- Unemployed people increased by 11,300 to 937,400 (and by 228,100 over the year to Sept. 2020)
- Youth unemployment increased 0.4 pts to 14.5% (and by 2.7 pts over the year to Sept. ‘20).
When revenue goes south, jobs are quick to follow. By May, Australian small businesses had slashed 12 per cent of employees from their March staffing levels. The bulk of these losses were in the pandemic’s early stages, with small business employees losing their jobs at a 50 per cent higher rate than big businesses.
The ABS Business Impacts of COVID-19, April 2020 survey found 61 per cent of businesses had registered or were intending to register for the JobKeeper Payment scheme.
Construction, infrastructure and engineering sectors faring better than others
The construction and infrastructure sector is already showing some positive signs after COVID, reflecting impetus on the ground and some shovel-ready smaller projects starting.
Over the next two years, the Government will inject significant additional stimulus to create jobs by working with state and local governments to roll out an additional $3 billion in shovel-ready infrastructure projects as soon as possible, supporting over 10,000 jobs. This includes an additional $1 billion for the Local Roads and Community Infrastructure Program.
‘A Snapshot in Time’ recent report from the National Skills Commission observes that for economic recovery in this evolving environment, matching workers to jobs will require quickly identifying skills needs and retraining people for jobs in demand.
“There is evidence that the impacts are yet to flow through to sectors including construction (housing in particular). However, governments progressing infrastructure projects, and the new HomeBuilder program supporting residential construction jobs will help construction remain an important source of jobs for Australians now and into the future.”
|A recent McKinsey article, ‘The next normal for Australian industries and workforces’, discusses how the impact of COVID-19 restrictions on employment across Australian industries from March to June 2020 has been highly unequal, with construction one sector that was largely protected. “Construction projects have generally been able to proceed at pace by redesigning shifts and adjusting ways of working. The long duration of many projects meant revenues did not drop off immediately when the crisis hit.”|
Infrastructure Australia has welcomed funding support from the Federal Government’s 2020-21 Budget for $14 billion in new infrastructure projects, which will create 40,000 future jobs. Additional funding for key projects already on the organisation’s annual Infrastructure Priority List include a $2 billion road safety program to deliver small-scale road safety projects, $2 billion in funding for water infrastructure, and $250 million towards modernising Australia’s recycling infrastructure.
Demand for talent is only going to increase
According to UTS construction professor Martin Loosemore, there is an expected shortage of 50 per cent of all construction occupations over the next five years.
“Estimates show that the construction industry needs an extra 13,000 to 15,000 new apprentices every year and an additional 300,000 skilled workers nationally over the next decade - a 30 per cent increase on the current workforce.”
The Sydney Migration Group (SMG) observes that while Australia is planning a number of rail and infrastructure projects, the building and construction industry is struggling with a massive labour shortage. Aecom’s Regional Head of Rail Project Delivery, Sebastian Fleury, says that he could double his workforce provided he found enough skilled people to fill the vacancies, mostly in civil, structure and geo-technical jobs.
The SMG reports that employers are having a tough time filling job vacancies to get these projects off the ground and there is a particular dearth of electricians and talented engineers.
“Data from Seek showed electricians were the most sought-after professionals in Australia in 2018, with a huge demand for those with industrial and specialized experience.”
This labour and skills shortfall will drive the need for companies to attract and retain top talent and to ensure their recruitment strategy has good resourcing plans, processes, and procedures in place.
There is an established pipeline of work in the post-COVID world, as government bolsters its investment, creating jobs. CGC believes that smaller, ‘shovel-ready’ projects will be a clear winner as a driver of job creation, with opportunities for Australian-owned SME businesses to deliver works up to $20M.
CGC helps clients across Australia deliver major projects by finding the best candidates and talent. To attract top professionals to your project, connect with CGC and talk with one of our experienced consultants.
To read our expert predictions for the infrastructure, construction and engineering, architecture, and property development recruitment sectors this year and what it means for you, download our CGC in Focus Report.
For local candidates, skills shortages will create some excellent career opportunities, as until Australia’s borders open, companies need to hire local professionals. To be involved in projects or to attract candidates that are changing and improving Australia’s infrastructure, connect with CGC today.
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- Labour Force Australia from Australian Bureau of Statistics, ABC.gov.au
- JobMaker - Creating jobs and rebuilding our economy, Budget.gov.au
- The next normal for Australian industries and workforces, McKinsey.com
- Unemployment rate falls but job seekers say finding work is still 'really hard', ABC.net.au
- Infrastructure central to catalysing economic growth, InfrastructureAustralia.gov.au
- This Australian sector is struggling with a massive labour shortage, ImmiAU.com.au
- Australia’s Most Employable Industries Post-pandemic, Training.com.au
- The Australian Economic Recovery Plan, OurComeback.gov.au