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Australian firms are struggling to hire staff with science, technology, engineering and mathematics (‘STEM’) skills, holding back productivity and competition, a new report by the Australian Industry (Ai) Group found. STEM skills are essential in the technical, engineering, ICT and telecommunication industries.
Firms are in particular having trouble recruiting technicians and trade workers (41% of respondents reported difficulty), professionals (27%) and managers (26%) with such skills.
Ai Group chief executive, Innes Willox, said: “The report lays bare the challenges facing Australia's educators and employers to adequately skill the workforce that will be required to build a competitive economy of the future.
“A quarter of the employers surveyed found a lack of applicants with STEM skills to be their greatest barrier to recruitment. Other key barriers included a lack of workplace experience and the content of qualifications not being relevant to business needs.”
He said that an estimated 75% of the fastest growing occupations require STEM skills and knowledge. “Despite this, enrolments and the number of graduates with STEM qualifications continue to decline. This is a major concern for industry,” warned Mr Willox.
Key findings of the report:
- Among manufacturers, 44% reported difficulties recruiting technicians and trade workers with STEM skills. This was slightly greater than the proportion of construction businesses (39%) and service sector businesses (35%) who reported difficulties recruiting technicians and trade workers with STEM skills. In the mining industry, 37.5% of businesses reported difficulties recruiting professional occupations with STEM skills. All of these occupations with STEM skills shortages are at the higher end of the qualifications spectrum.
- Large enterprises experienced greater difficulties than smaller enterprises in recruiting employees with STEM skills.
- 30% of respondents from the mining sector and 29.4% of respondents from the services sector reported the lack of applicants with STEM skills to be greatest barrier in recruiting employees with STEM skills.