Skills audit: Current and future skill requirements on the Mid North Coast of NSW

Steve Montgomery, Jessica Tout-Lyon, Kerry Grace, Jenni Kew, Russell Pell, Louise Lord, Diana Gibbs

Research output: Book/ReportCommissioned report (public)

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The Mid North Coast Skills Audit was undertaken between April and June 2017 to capture the current and future skill needs of business and industry within the Region. With a methodology that included an online survey (165 responses), face to face interviews, presentations at business and industry network forums, focus groups and case studies, the Skills Audit provides a rich evidence base that can contribute to forward economic development planning in the Region. The study focuses on skills rather than jobs. The rationale is that specific jobs are subject to change, and that the range of actual occupations and employment opportunities in the Australian and Mid North Coast labour markets is large and diverse. Publications such as Australian Jobs 2017 (Australian Government, Department of Employment) acknowledge that occupations can be clustered according to skill levels and skill types, which are portable to a range of occupations.
Similarly, the Foundation for Young Australians has provided ‘big data’ analysis of some 2.7 million job advertisements to reveal 7 new portable skills ‘clusters’ in the Australian economy, where the required skills are more closely related and transferable than first thought. In its report The New Work Mindset, the Foundation for Young Australians believes that it is time for a new, more dynamic mindset when considering the future workforce. Such a mindset is less about what jobs are disappearingor remaining, and more about what portable skills and capabilities are most useful for both employers and employees in the new economy. With regard to the required skill sets needed for projected business and economic growth in the Mid North Coast Region over the next five years, industry-specific skills, management skills, marketing/sales skills and digital literacy/ICT skills appeared as those most required. Businesses from the Region almost unanimously (93%) agreed that generic employability skills (soft skills) such as communication, team work, problem solving, initiative and enterprise, planning and organising, self-management, learning and technology were also very important or essential to business growth over the next 5 years. Interestingly, businesses also acknowledged the significance of portable skills ‘clusters’ as impacting on their growth potential. In particular, portable skill clusters that include a high level of interpersonal interaction in retail, sales, hospitality and entertainment (the Generators cluster), having a skilled understanding of digital technology (the Technologists cluster) and professional information, education and/or business services skills (the Informers cluster) were seen as very important or essential for business growth in the Mid North Coast Region over the next 5 years. The Skills Audit also identified that access to a suitably skilled workforce, a perceived lack of available skills in the Region and competition from outside the Region were all constraints to business growth over the next 5 years. Drawing upon a small population base, location, attitudes towards employment and concerns about employment preparation undertaken with young people were also raised as constraints to economic growth. Over 50% of respondents indicated that they were experiencing skill shortages in their workforce right now. Significantly, the skill shortages were widespread across 16 of the 19 industry sectors represented in the Region. Despite these constraints, some 70% of respondents indicated confidence in their business turnover over the next 5 years, which points to a positive economic outlook for the Region. Small and micro-businesses employing 10 people or less had the least confident outlook. A strong education and training culture exists in the Region, with 70% of respondents providing training for existing staff. In house training is a popular method used by business and industry (33%), but a range of education and training methods were used, including a combination of methods. Nonetheless, some 20% of respondents indicated that a lack of relevant training availability in the Region was a constraint to future business growth. The Skills Audit shows that business and industry in the Region is forward focused, with more than 50% of businesses indicating that the ability to innovate and be responsive to customer needs was likely to impact on their business growth potential over the next 5 years, as was an ability to use technology effectively (46%). In addition, more than 76% of businesses indicated that they would be introducing new products, new or improved methods or processes and marketing or organisational innovation as well as innovating in-house and/or collaborating with others over the next 10 years.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationPort Macquarie, NSW
PublisherRegional Development Australia
Commissioning bodyNSW Government
Number of pages31
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2017


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