Addressing Australia's future workforce challenges at the Australian Workplace Conference
16 Apr 2010
Sydney University's Workplace Research Centre recently hosted the 2010 Australian Workplace Conference. The Conference was dedicated to addressing Australia's future workforce challenges, and discussing current issues affecting the working lives of Australian people.
The conference featured experts from academia, government agencies, the labour movement and industry, including the Centre's Director, Dr John Buchanan, Fair Work Australia Ombudsman Nicholas Wilson, Assistant Secretary of the ACTU, Tim Lyons, and Chief Executive, Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Peter Anderson.
Speakers addressed the challenges faced by Australians including the economic and labour market outlooks for 2010, discussion of Australia's path to recovery from the financial crisis; the latest challenges and developments regarding the Fair Work Act, current workplace issues for working people and the private sector, and a strategic outlook on Australia’s future skill needs and the challenges.
For the first time, research was also presented on the emerging topic of skill utilisation, aimed at ensuring the most effective application of skills available to maximise performance and productivity. Presented by Workplace Research Centre Senior Research Analyst Linda Scott, this research detailed a series of international examples of programs designed to assist regions with diverse skill requirements, such as Australia, with the process of ensuring current and future skill needs are met. These examples, largely from OECD nations, provide pathways to preventing skill shortages that may stand in the way of Australia's economic recovery.
Other highlights of the conference included a presentation from economist Barry Hughes titled: Global Recovery. Is it happening? Dr Hughes said there were some 'reasons for caution' and suggested that financial recovery may take longer than others expect. He said debt remained high and credit tight for many nations but emphasised that Australia was doing relatively well compared with others because of smaller increases in public debt to GDP than most other major trading nations between 2008 to 2010.
Other important issues discussed on the day by the Workplace Relations speaker panel included 'the need for a workable certainty' in relation to the Fair Work System and a need for a commitment to basic standards in the workplace.
The Fair Work Ombudsmen attended the conference and highlighted that in order to achieve credibility, employer behaviours needed to change in the workplace. Research presented by The Hon Jason Clare, Parliamentary Secretary for Employment, indicated the challenges Australia faced regarding skills shortages. He described how the workforce is changing and said that 'the jobs of the future are going to require more skills, and the proportion of low and unskilled jobs will fall'.