Skills shortages appear to be easing – so why do unfilled vacancies remain?

According to a recent report from the Commonwealth Department of Employment about skills shortages, there has been some easing of the problem. Significant widespread shortages are now apparent for just six professions and 21 trades.

While there is strong demand from the building and construction sector, skilled vacancy numbers remain low and relatively few occupations are in shortage. For example, in 2007 a staggering 91% of consistently assessed occupations were facing a shortage in skills, but that number has now drastically decreased to just 38% in 2015.

Technicians and Trades Workers vacancies remain the most difficult to fill. The proportion of vacancies filled ranges from 81% for Building Technicians to only 55% for construction trade workers.

The majority of occupations have enough applicants with the relevant qualifications, or appropriate skills and experience for most vacancies. Employers are finding it easier to fill vacancies within their occupations, as 70% of vacancies are being filled, with up to 11.9 applicants per job vacancy.

Recruitment for trade apprenticeships remains difficult, however. Only 62% of apprentice vacancies have been filled. While there were 22.3 applicants per apprentice vacancy, only 2.4 were considered to be suitable applicants.

Why are so many vacancies still left unfilled when there are so many applicants? While the reasons may vary depending on the company, the most common reasons are because:

  • there are no applicants considered to be suitable for the specific position; and
  • there is an inability to agree on the terms and conditions of employment.

Overall, about 6% of the employers did not attract any applicants.

The message, therefore, is while the number of occupations experiencing skills shortages is reducing, employers are still experiencing difficulties filling some vacancies, especially in the trades and apprenticeship areas.

Does this report reflect your experience? Are you finding it difficult to fill any of your employment vacancies? Which areas are the most difficult for you to fill? Please share your experiences and thoughts below.

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Christian Vega is a recent graduate in business and marketing from Swinburne University of Technology. He is currently working with Ai Group's Education and Training Policy Team.

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