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WA Skills Summit

The McGowan Government’s rescheduled Skills Summit will be held today in Perth, as early positive results from a number of immediate skills measures put in place earlier this month can be revealed.


Premier Mark McGowan, Education and Training Minister Sue Ellery and other Cabinet members will join industry leaders from a range of sectors – including the resources, construction, agriculture, defence and healthcare industries.


The Summit is an opportunity for business leaders and other industry players to work collaboratively to develop immediate and longer term strategies to address skills needs impacting the Western Australian economy.


After the Skills Summit was postponed late last month due to the COVID-19 lockdown, a number of immediate initiatives were put in place to begin addressing workforce needs – with positive early results achieved.


The expansion of the State Nominated Migration Program – which enables temporary visa holders already in Australia to fill positions not being met by local workers – has seen thousands of expressions of interest from workers around the country.


The new $5.2 million Jobs and Skills WA Adult Apprentice Employer Incentive to provide eligible businesses with up to $26,800 when they hire a mature age apprentice has also been fully subscribed – with all 100 places available this financial year now filled.


The extension to the Apprentice and Traineeship Re-engagement Incentive has also seen a marked increase in enquiries from employers and trainees.


The partnership between Tourism WA and training council FutureNow has been formalised, with a number of programs to encourage young people to pursue careers in tourism and hospitality.


The State Government expects additional initiatives to address WA’s skills needs will be announced following the Skills Summit.


These measures are in addition to the McGowan Government’s major investments over the past four years towards restoring and revitalising the State’s training sector – including slashing TAFE fees, introducing free short courses and delivering the biggest TAFE infrastructure build in WA history.


There are more than 86,000 students in vocational education and training courses in WA – a 25 per cent increase compared to last year.


WA employers have also responded by taking on more apprentices and trainees in 2021, with apprenticeship and traineeship commencements up by 72 per cent in the past 12 months.


Comments attributed to Premier Mark McGowan:


“Today’s Skills Summit is about generating new ideas on how industry and government can work together to address the current workforce challenges we are experiencing.


“Western Australia is in an enviable position, with a thriving economy and a low unemployment rate, amid a global pandemic. But there are challenges that come with this.


“Our strong economic position is putting significant pressure on the availability of skilled workers in WA.


“It is very encouraging to see the initiatives we implemented last month are already having a positive impact in addressing skills needs.


“I look forward to hearing directly from industry leaders on how we can continue to collaborate to address these challenges and enable the WA economy to continue on its strong trajectory.”


Comments attributed to Education and Training Minister Sue Ellery:


“Due to significant investment by the McGowan Government, we are training like never before.


“In our first term a key commitment was to make training more affordable for all Western Australians and we have built on that coming back into government.

“But as we continue to deal with the impact of the pandemic we need to remain agile and look at new ways to keep the economy moving which is what today is all about.”



In a joint statement, peak organisations and industry groups representing key sectors of the WA economy welcome the focus the McGowan Government has brought to the issue of skills and labour shortages today. Skills shortages are the biggest barrier to growth to our members, and the State economy. The WA business community is committed to working with both levels of Government to address these shortages.

Chamber of Commerce and Industry WA CEO Chris Rodwell and Chamber of Minerals and Energy CEO Paul Everingham said…

Ultimately, we need to recognise that we won’t adequately resolve critical workforce gaps by simply tapping into our local and interstate population.

The business community continues to make very considerable investments in training people in this State. Even with these investments and important training reforms, there remains a considerable shortfall in skilled people to help build our economy.

Employers continue to promote relocation incentives, and CME estimates throughout COVID roughly 3000 fly-in fly-out workers either temporarily or permanently relocated to WA. However, many workers continue to choose not to relocate for a range of reasons.  CCIWA’s recent national survey clearly showed that it will be difficult to attract workers from other states, and that WA relies to a greater extent on overseas workers.

It is critical that the outcomes from the Skills Summit include real and tangible options to help remedy the problem, realising there is no easy solution.

Most importantly, the State Government must, when announced, commit to national reopening thresholds that effectively balances health social and economic considerations. Committing to such thresholds will provide a level of certainty to WA businesses over when they will be able to access overseas workers at scale.

Further specific options to enable businesses to access the workers they need include:

  • Creating more capacity within the quarantine system, including:
    • More options for international arrivals based on the risk they pose, such as home quarantine for low-risk overseas arrivals.
    • Working with the Federal Government to rapidly develop dedicated quarantine facilities.
  • Facilitating a clear and simple process to enable businesses to fill critical workforce gaps across all skill levels, which cannot be met locally, from overseas. The process should enable businesses or groups of businesses to propose programs like the Pacific Labour Scheme whereby they are responsible for the recruitment, movement and quarantine of workers.
  • A commitment to continue shifting toward more risk-based responses to COVID outbreaks as the majority of vulnerable people have had a chance to be vaccinated. Practically this means a commitment that the following measures will only be applied as a last resort (i.e. for outbreaks involving variants our vaccines aren’t effective against):
    • Interstate border closures
    • Requiring 14 days quarantine for interstate arrivals
    • WA regional or state-wide lockdowns.
  • Making and advocating for policy changes that increase WA women’s workforce participation. This includes by letting universal access funding for kindy follow the child, and advocating for the Commonwealth to remove Fringe Benefits Tax on childcare so that more businesses can provide childcare places for their employees.


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