Where are the new job openings likely to be? Which industries and occupations are likely to be involved? A new report by Chandra Shah and Janine Dixon explores these questions, but it is also useful to read it alongside Australia’s skill shortage list.

Job openings are created when industries or occupations expand. However, existing workers also need to be replaced. Replacement demand is high for occupations with older workforces where retirement is more likely. These include a number of technical and trade occupations. Replacement demand also occurs where people see a particular occupation as a shorter-term work option.

What the report is trying to do

Shah and Dixon provide “forecasts of job openings for new entrants to the Australian labour market by occupation and industry for the period 2017 to 2024.” These openings may be the result of growth in an occupation (‘expansion demand’) or the need to replace older workers, that is: ‘replacement demand’. The authors see these forecasts as useful to job seekers, students and career advisors to help them make informed choices about which education and training courses to choose. Policymakers should also find the forecasts useful for long-term planning for the VET sector.

Where are the likely job openings?

Occupations requiring higher levels of education and training are the real winners in the expansion stakes. There will also be a strong demand in the residential care and social assistance resulting from the roll out of the NDIS. Strong growth in demand for midwifery and nursing professionals, health and welfare support workers, child care as well as personal care and assistants will be required. The continued rollout of the NBN will mean there is an increasing demand for ICT and telecommunications technicians.

The report suggests that “many trade and technical occupations will be weaker than average for all occupations because of continuing weakness in construction.” However, the very recent budget announcements on infrastructure spending, which emerged after the report was published, may turn this around.

Replacement demand is an important factor too, though. Indeed:

“In most occupations, replacement demand contributes more to job openings than does expansion demand.”

Replacement demand is significant for both professionals and many types of manager – and especially construction, distribution and production managers. Farmers and farm managers are also on the list given the age of this workforce. In trade and technical areas, replacement demand is significant for bricklayers, carpenters and joiners, automotive electricians and mechanics. There is a downside to all of this. There will be fewer experienced staff available to help train new workers.

In some occupations, a high proportion of the job openings is due to replacement demand rather than employment growth. This high turnover of workers is due to low entry requirements, low wages and the large numbers of young people these occupations employ, and who do not stay in the occupation long. This includes both the retail and hospitality industries.