The skills shortage that has plagued the Australian workforce is set to increase within 12 months as world economies continue to rebound, a joint survey by the Australian Industries (Ai) Group and Deloitte has found.
According to the Skilling Business in Tough Times survey, the shortage is set to grow largely because of a recent drop in spending on training programs.
“A third of businesses reported plans to reduce training expenditure and four out of five of those companies are reducing their training budgets by more than 20%,” the survey found.
Despite the anticipated shortage, the message from Ai Group chief executive Heather Ridout is that Australian businesses have in fact learnt from the mistakes of previous downturns and will not slash too many positions in a panicked decision to cut costs.
“It is clear from the survey that Australian companies have understood the lessons of past recessions and are doing all they can to hold on to staff with a view to being well placed to take advantage of growth when it resumes,” she said.
“Training budgets have been trimmed rather than slashed and strategies have been employed across the board to retain staff, albeit with fewer hours.”
The Skilling Business in Tough Times survey found that companies plan to reduce employment by an average of 3.8% in 2009/10.
In addition to a potential shortage of skilled workers in the future, Deloitte human capital partner David Brown warns against the possibility of a reduction in skilled management positions.
“Beyond the technical skills shortages highlighted in the survey, reduced investment in leadership training is also having an impact on senior managers and executives in Australia,” he said.
“Under investment in leadership training will need to be addressed if Australia is to take advantage of being one of the first economies to emerge from the downturn and attract the talent it needs to drive growth.”