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Vocational training: Where are we? How did we get here?

Is your enterprise short of people? Is it hard to find the right people? Are the people now on board suitably trained and skilled for real everyday tasks? Whatever your situation, it’s probably the system making the solutions challenging. Both facts and anecdotes suggest the industry in Australia is short of people, and good people are hard to find. The pandemic aside, where are we, and how did we get here?

First, a situation report. In Greenlife Industry Australia’s (GIA) December 2021 report, President Glenn Fenton said, “Labor shortages are a consistent issue raised by several businesses. It is not expected that this issue will be resolved until international borders are fully opened.”

While Australia’s (April 2022) unemployment rate stood at a 50-year low of 3.9%, it is expected to decline further to 3.5% in early 2023. This is attributed largely to the pandemic, as border closures and uncertainty caused some of our workforce to leave the country while ‘soaring’ debt levels fuelled a rapid rebound. Some GIA-recommended strategies to consider in helping your business boost or at least maintain cash flow include increasing wages or providing extra benefits to retain existing staff.

Pre-pandemic, the Australian government asked, ‘What occupations in your industry, sector, or business are in demand and/or hard to fill?’ GIA’s response nominated ‘Nurseryperson’ and ‘Nursery Assistant.’ Levy-funded research (Nursery Industry Statistics 2017-18 to 2019-20 NY17008) reported qualified horticulturists are estimated to represent 17% of the greenlife production workforce. The report also highlighted an aging workforce, with 85% of the workforce over the age of 40 years (40-59 years 49%) and (60+ 36%), with the remaining 15% of the workforce below the age of 39.

It was concluded the need for the industry to attract, train and retain Nurserypersons and Nursery Assistants is paramount to the future of the industry.

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