The National Skills Commission (NSC) has just published its first report.
A snapshot in time explores the impact COVID-19 has had on Australia’s labour market and what the NSC believes needs to be done about it. It sees challenges and difficult times ahead, but also opportunities.
The NSC is using data to try to get a handle on “which sectors, industries, occupations, groups in our society and regions have been, and might continue to be, affected by the economic shock from COVID-19” so that they can help shape the recovery and “ensure skill shortages don’t act as a handbrake on growth.” COVID has seen a record fall in employment between March and May and declines in hours worked with growth in both the unemployment rate and numbers who were underemployed. In addition, the report said that 17 of 19 industries recorded falls in jobs and 61% of businesses either registered or intended to register for Jobkeeper. Overall, women and young people were most affected.
At the time NSC produced and released the report there were initial signs emerging of a return in business confidence, but this has probably now been adversely affected by the rising case numbers and lockdowns in Victoria in early July.
A role for education and training?
The paper sees a strong role for the education and training sector in the recovery process with a focus on skilling, re-skilling and up-skilling displaced workers. Feedback from employers looking for staff highlighted “the importance of relevant experience when applying for jobs and the vital role of workplace experience during training.” On the other hand, COVID and requirements for social distancing during practical training are affecting the present abilities of RTOs to offer that practical training.
NSC is developing JEDI, which:
“can identify what skills from a person’s current or previous employment can transfer to different jobs that use similar skills. It also identifies skill gaps between the different jobs recommended before showing VET courses available to fill the gap.”
NSC is looking hard at the skills profiles for a variety of occupations, and have so far developed about 600. The profiles consist of core competencies that underpin all jobs, specialised tasks related to a particular job – some of which are transferable between jobs – and the ‘technical tools’ associated with the work, such as using the internet, sending emails, texts or instant messages, and connecting remotely with video conferencing. But it may also include more specialised tech skills, such as using CAD, project management or accounting software.
The core competencies are the usual suspects: reading, writing, numeracy, oral communication, problem solving, teamwork, digital literacy, planning and organising and initiative and innovation. They use these to develop ‘heat maps’ for major occupations. And, when we in VET start to make more extensive use of NSC’s information and data more, we too may become ‘JEDI knights’!
Over the next 12 months “the NSC will build on its initial research to develop an in-depth understanding of current and future labour market conditions and skills needs.” Their key areas of focus will include: assessing the nature of labour market recovery, determining skills shortages or surplus, analysing the structural shifts that are occurring in the labour market and identifying current, emerging and future skills needs. They will also develop “an innovative ‘Nowcasting’ capability.” They will use this approach to analyse “labour market trends in near real-time to provide a more timely, accurate and granular view of what is happening in the labour market.”
Readers may also care to look at Jobs Hub to help job seekers and employers connect in a rapidly changing jobs market and the Jobs Outlook website focused on trends in the labour market. This aims to help people “at all ages and all stages in their working life to find jobs that match their interests, experience and skillset.” This is supported by the ‘Skills Match’ function on the site.