30 August 2022

Barr's wishlist to beat the skills crisis holding the ACT back

| Ian Bushnell
Join the conversation
Andrew Barr on Budget day

Chief Minister Andrew Barr: the Budget may be willing but the skills are lacking. Photo: Lottie Twyford.

Skills shortages are hampering the ACT Government’s ability to deliver its infrastructure program and services, Chief Minister Andrew Barr has told Prime Minister Anthony Albanese ahead of this week’s Jobs and Skills Summit in Canberra.

Mr Barr has written to Mr Albanese and made a submission outlining the ACT’s particular needs and calling for a boost to skilled migration, greater workforce participation, and increased job security and pay.

He also highlighted the need to prepare for future skills needed to support the economy’s transition to clean energy sources to reduce greenhouse emissions and the growing demands for ICT workers as digitisation gathers pace, including cyber security needs.

READ ALSO Innovation grants here to help launch Canberra’s next round of big ideas

The ACT faced acute skills shortages in construction, health, education, information and communications technologies, hospitality, personal services and in niche areas such as bus drivers, Mr Barr said.

“The ACT labour market is facing significant labour supply challenges with the unemployment rate at 3.3 per cent and only 0.6 unemployed people for every job vacancy,” he said.

Mr Barr urged national health funding reform to be given priority and for the ACT to be assessed under a ‘high needs’ category usually classed as remote or regional.

“In the past, the Commonwealth has not recognised the role the ACT plays as a regional hub and the particular challenges it faces,” the government’s submission says.

The ACT wants to employ at least 400 new clinical staff, including nurses, doctors and healthcare professionals to meet increasing demand from a growing population.

Mr Barr said the summit should agree to develop a joint Commonwealth-State approach to addressing housing affordability issues, including those facing key workers and skilled migrants.

He also urged greater Commonwealth funding for state and territory-delivered infrastructure to meet the needs of a growing population.

READ ALSO Classification changes no, but there’s much that will be embraced from APS review

In the ACT, a lack of engineers was holding back projects, including road construction and maintenance, and the ACT was struggling to compete financially for staff across a number of sectors.

Even when hiring bus drivers, the ACT struggled to find enough who met the minimum criteria, impacting Transport Canberra’s ability to run full services.

Mr Barr urged the summit to agree on an immediate boost of this year’s skilled migration allocations, including an increase for the ACT of up to 5000 places, without any reduction in family stream numbers and with adequate and suitable housing.

Mr Barr wants Australia to be seen as a preferred migration destination and called for the federal government to give preference to permanent visa pathways to give prospective migrants greater certainty.

He said the summit should commit to simplifying and streamlining the current migration system, including quicker processing times.

READ ALSO Make your next real estate move with the Region Property Guide

Mr Barr said a new long-term National Agreement for Skills and Workforce Development should focus on training outcomes, be adequately funded, and be flexible enough to meet the individual needs of states and territories.

He said the ACT, as a knowledge economy and the home of the Australian Public Service, had particular ICT needs, including increasing cyber security pressures.

The summit should agree on a road map to meet these emerging workforce needs.

Mr Barr also said action was needed to break up the logjam in processing security clearances for government staff.

Join the conversation

All Comments
  • All Comments
  • Website Comments
Tom Worthington9:39 am 30 Aug 22

The ACT Government has a key tool to reduce skills shortages: the Canberra Institute of Technology. When I needed to know how to teach vocational skills, in a hurry, I went along to CIT and got skilled up, and certified. CIT does this for people wanting to work in many fields.

One way to address training for CT & cyber security would be a joint initiative for Commonwealth and state/territories to employ part time defence personnel. These people could learn skills equally useful in their day job, and to defend the country. https://blog.highereducationwhisperer.com/2022/08/expanding-canberra-defence-training.html

Stephen Saunders12:07 am 30 Aug 22

As COVID ebbs, Mr Barr can’t wait to get back on to the “Big Australia” hamster-wheel of unsustainable population growth.

The “visa backlog” and “skills crisis” are exaggerated. The Jobs Summit is a trojan horse for levels of immigration that not even Australia has ever seen before – and that’s really saying something.

Are the unions protecting local workers? Well, Sally McManus has green-lit 200,000 in permanent migration – and all-time record – and was last seen having a love-in with Jennifer Westacott.

Skills shortage in the the highest educated city in the country. Why?
Maybe it’s the most expensive petrol, the highest rentals in the country, longest hospital waiting lists, high Rates and Land Tax.
Could it also be the knowledge that billions are to spent on LR that is going to be slower then the buses they will replace? Could it be that people realise that southern Canberra will be looking at many years of traffic bedlam, when the clover leaves get knocked down?
Could it be that people are now doing that big resignation or retirement thing, after deciding they’ve had enough?

If I was Mr Barr I’d start with fixing the skills and education of seriously underperforming ACT public schools.

He’s ignored kids locked in cages, schools shut by Worksafe for being too dangerous and school performances that are declining due to chronic under resourcing.

If he doesn’t bother commenting on the issues with his own schools, you get the feeling his education minister thinks she’s under no pressure from the chief minister to improve things.

I can’t believe they struggle to find bus drivers? Surely there are people out there who want to earn over $100k for driving empty buses around the suburbs.

Australia wide there are skill shortages in EVERY industry. Even unskilled-labourers are near impossible to find. Reliable people who can follow basic instructions, and pass drug/alcohol tests just aren’t out there, even over $30/hr.

This “summit” short of being material for the next instalment of Hollow Men will be a complete talk fest. People are knocking back job in the ACT because there is nowhere to live/rent.

You can’t believe the ACT government can’t find bus drivers.

There’s swathes of Tuggeranong and west Belconnen that can no longer find a bus, let alone a bus driver. 🙂

Capital Retro3:35 pm 29 Aug 22

Mr Barr could show leadership by doing a refresher on his economics degree.

This perceived “skills” shortage is just a scheme to recruit more union members. Just like the NDIS.

Daily Digest

Want the best Canberra news delivered daily? Every day we package the most popular Riotact stories and send them straight to your inbox. Sign-up now for trusted local news that will never be behind a paywall.

By submitting your email address you are agreeing to Region Group's terms and conditions and privacy policy.