wa housing workforce futureproof skills and training 2024
Image: Canva.
  • Trends impacting labour markets include the rise of AI, the 'green' transition, and an ageing population.
  • Senior Economist at the OECD believes we are more likely to run out of people before we run out of jobs.
  • An agile education and training sector, alongside showcasing WA's enviable lifestyle will be key to meeting ongoing labour force demands.

The Western Australian property industry is not alone in facing ongoing skills shortages that are impacting businesses and governments globally.

WA is competing with other states and many other countries to attract and retain skilled workers in areas including construction-related trades, engineering, and communications technology to name just a few. While Perth employers are hard-hit by the shortages, the regions and remote areas are experiencing the highest shortages across the board.

At the same time as the immediate skills shortages, we are navigating significant changes in ways of working, technology, and innovation trends that are reshaping the future of work and influencing education and training requirements.

According to Senior Economist at the OECD, Stijn Broecke, the megatrends that are impacting labour markets globally include technology (particularly the rise of Artificial Intelligence), the ‘green’ transition; an ageing population, the changing nature of globalisation as some countries become more isolationist in the wake of COVID-19, and lastly, policy and regulatory frameworks around labour markets and working conditions.

Looking at the potential impact of Artificial Intelligence (AI) in particular, Mr Broecke says that despite fears about how the technology may negate some jobs, there are plenty of opportunities in terms of how AI could create new job opportunities, automate tasks, and increase productivity.

“We are finding that demand for higher skilled workers is increasing because they have many skills that cannot be automated yet, and AI can also make them more productive,” Mr Broecke said.

“AI can improve the quality of what certain skilled workers do.”

Stijn Broecke, OECD

From a skills perspective that means continuing to invest in higher education.

“It’s not just about having AI skills; while they may be necessary for a minority of the labor force, higher-skilled individuals in general will be in demand,” Mr Broecke said.

In terms of the property industry in particular, Mr Broecke suggests that AI could be used as a tool to improve areas like planning, but will not be a substitute for many workers.

“In many cases, we have found that AI can process vast amounts of information beyond human capacity. As a result, AI can identify patterns that humans might overlook, making it particularly useful for certain job roles,” Mr. Broecke explained.

“I see AI more as an input into the decision-making process, something that might improve the quality of services being produced.”

Overall, Mr. Broecke believes that automation presents an opportunity to address certain skills gaps, especially as the population ages. Additionally, it has the potential to enhance areas such as physical and mental health, as well as safety.

“Adaptability and flexibility in education systems to teach the skills required for a new labour market is important. It is about learning how to use new technology, and understanding the limitations and strengths, and how to work with them,” Mr Broecke said.

The local context

For our State Government, addressing the immediate skills shortages while preparing a future-ready workforce through education and training is an ongoing balancing act.

The Hon. Simone McGurk, Minister for Training; Water and Youth says that the state’s clean energy transition is a particular example of where we need people to work in the existing energy industries as well as the new jobs that are coming online.

“We need to continue to meet the current job vacancies and skills demands that we have in the industry now, whether that is energy, oil and gas, solar installation industries and the like, as well as emerging areas such as batteries, battery vehicles, hydrogen, wind farm installation, and industry-specific transition projects,” the Minister said.

“We need to ensure we have a pipeline of people working in both our existing industries and in new jobs in new industries.

“We are starting to see evidence of young people voting with their feet and not being prepared or as interested in going to work in fossil fuel industries for instance.”

simone mcgurk western australian minister for training water and youth speaks to udia wa
Hon. Simone McGurk MLA. IMAGE: Supplied

“We need to be able to communicate to those people that getting a job as an electrician, if you are interested in clean energy, is a practical way you can help and be part of the transition to a cleaner economy.”

The Minister is confident that WA is in a good position to address these issues given we have a quality vocational training system that is responsive to change.

“We’ve got a system that is producing very high-quality apprentices and trades people through our apprentice system, and that is a very good foundation to have quality people out there now.

“Then you can tweak the systems to look at the changes that are required because of technology.

“The resource sector is the cornerstone of our strong economy in WA, and we can leverage off the skills and capacity in that internationally competitive sector to start to build the economy and therefore the community and places to live, that we want moving forward.”

Driver Training
Launch of CTF’s Driver’s Licence Training Support Program. IMAGE: Supplied.

The State Government launched Fee Free Training options earlier in 2023 for over 130 full qualifications and Job Ready Short Courses, and the initiative has just been extended into 2024.

Part of that initiative was the Bricklaying Job Ready program that, to date, has had 440 participants commence.

“The program includes additional wraparound support and on-the-job training, which has led to some fantastic outcomes for participants and employers – particularly in areas like bricklaying where we know there is a strong demand for workers.

“Developing our building and construction workforce is an absolute priority for this Government – so we can get boots on the ground and people into their homes faster.”

Attracting workers to Western Australia

While training a skilled workforce for now and into the future is important, we still need to attract skilled workers from interstate and overseas to meet current and future demand.

For the property sector, as we find ourselves in the midst of a housing supply crisis, this issue could not be more critical.

Mr Broecke warns that the competition for people will remain fierce, particularly as our global population continues to age. He says we are more likely to run out of people before we run out of jobs.

Minister McGurk says the State Government was disappointed earlier this year when the Federal Government made the decision to cut WA’s skilled migration numbers.

“We continue to advocate that was the wrong response for WA given our demand remains high and it impacts not just our state domestic economy, but the resources sector that is needed for the whole country,” the Minister said.

While the Federal Government’s decision on migration numbers is a challenge, the Minister says that the State Government has several bespoke programs in place.

“We’ve got a skilled migration program specifically aimed at the construction industry to try and attract skilled migrants to that sector.

“We have set up a program to target 1,100 skilled workers to come into the building and construction sectors.

“They are given generous subsidies, as is the employer, and we have set up a section within the Department of Workforce Development and Training to help consider those people coming in and get them placed with contractors.”

The Department has also established a Skilled Migrant Employment Register which provides a free service that supports employers and skilled migrants to connect.

“We are doing a lot of hands-on work that the State Government hasn’t usually done, to try and meet those shortages in the building and construction industry.”

Whether addressing the immediate demand for skilled workers or planning for the needs of the future workforce, the agility of our education and training sectors, along with the ability to highlight the positive lifestyle attributes of our state, will continue to be essential in meeting our ongoing labour force demands.


This story was originally published in The Urbanist magazine, an official publication of the Urban Development Institute of Australia (WA). It has been edited for republication by The Property Tribune. 

The Property Tribune thanks the UDIA WA for the opportunity to republish the work, and share thought leadership in relation to urban development and community creation with our readers.

Read the original copy of The Urbanist by heading to UDIA WA’s website under the News tab.

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