Workforce Shortages policy 2023

16 March, 2023
Workforce Shortages policy 2023 Image

March 16, 2023

Regional NSW Workforce Policy


Labour shortages across the Barwon electorate affect all industries and communities. While Barwon is not the only electorate faced with this issue of attracting and retaining workers for our communities and accessing the essential workforce training, other parts of NSW have a clearer advantage over inland regional areas. This labour shortage has been building for quite some time and a lack of real action has led, in some cases, to the sort of critical and crippling shortages we are seeing with Registered Nurses. A prime example being the Nyngan Multi-Purpose Facility which has had to close all but one of its inpatient beds for months because of a critical shortage in staff.


Outcomes across health and education and general business growth are not going to improve without a strong short, medium, and long-term approach to securing the staff we desperately need. The Government has in some cases even denied there are workforce shortages in certain sectors, despite research showing otherwise.


According to Jobs and Skills Australia: Labour Market Update, February 2023, Registered Nurses are number one in the top 20 occupations in demand in NSW and the nation. With a monthly average across October to December 22 of 8377 in Internet Vacancies (IVI) in Australia and 2443 of those positions in NSW. This is a nationwide issue and NSW needs to get ahead of the curve to make real change.


  • Skilled Regional (Provisional) visa (subclass 491) - While I understand the need to have transparency and try to secure the most talented individuals for our skills needs, this must be balanced with the needs of regional communities. Genuine consultation must occur in the development of criteria. Sydney based departments cannot continue to make decisions for regional communities without an understanding of what’s required from those on the ground. This is a key program that the NSW Government can use to bring people to regional, rural, and remote communities immediately. In the past, the program starts with a strict criterion and then relaxes. This causes undue stress and this year there have been many cases of regional communities losing skilled migrants to other states. This can’t continue to happen.


  1. Relaxation of the 491 criteria to be in line with other states and territories to remain competitive. Criteria for the 491 visa for NSW be determined only through genuine consultation with industry representatives, chambers of commerce and RDA regions to ensure it meets the needs of regional communities. Not decided upon in an office in Sydney.
  2. Criteria relaxed further for those living and working in Category 3 Designated Regional Areas in NSW


  • International Study – CRICOS (Commonwealth Register of Institutions and Courses for Overseas Students) courses in regional areas is barely existent, other than at a few larger regional centres and is on a much smaller scale than Sydney. In fact, currently, only three inland regional centres offer a CRICOS course through TAFE NSW and each of these has only one type. The NSW Government could work with providers including TAFE NSW to increase their delivery, even in smaller communities. This would provide opportunities for people to study, work and live in regional communities and increase the likelihood of embedding in these communities for the long-term.


  1. NSW Government secures more CRICOS courses for inland regional NSW through partnerships with universities, TAFE NSW and private providers.


  • Support and funding for skills recognition – Skilled overseas workers currently must undertake a costly and difficult task to be recognised as ‘skilled’ in their occupation in Australia. While this is at a Commonwealth level, the NSW Government can advocate for change and more streamlined processes to make this more attractive for overseas workers. The NSW Government can also fund and support trainers and assessors to work with industry and small business to go overseas and fast-track the process for key industry sectors. The Skilling Australia Fund (SAF) Levy is a major obstacle for small business to be able to access employer sponsorship opportunities.


  1. NSW Government to support small businesses and industry by working with Skills Assessment providers to find ways to streamline and fast-track the assessment of skilled workers particularly in the critical industries of health, agriculture, construction, and education. This may mean providing trainers and assessors to go on behalf of regional areas overseas to conduct the assessments like major private industry.
  2. That the NSW Government take the stance of a permanent subsidy or change to the Skilling Australia Fund (SAF) Levy for Category 3 Designated Regional Areas. These communities do not have the access to the training this fund is meant to provide and is not equitable.


  • Targeted offshore recruitment – Campaigns solely focussed on attracting individuals from metro areas of NSW or Australia to regional are good, but will not solve the long-term issues. Recruitment for specific occupation needs and targeted to like-for-like communities overseas may result in more opportunities to bring new people to regional communities. By targeting similar size offshore communities and similar training or skill sets, it is a more effective approach to attracting skilled individuals who are more likely to fit into our workplaces and communities and have long-term settlement success.


  1. Funding is provided for a targeted recruitment campaign to offshore workers to showcase and highlight the career opportunities in regional NSW. This campaign should utilise local government, major employers who want to participate and an opportunity for small business to list their opportunities in a one stop shop come to NSW.


  • School pathways and career promotion – Pathways from high school should be targeted to meet future demand. There are clear projections of where we will need our workforce in the next five years and further, these should inform where school students are shown opportunities for further education and career pathways that are likely to result in meaningful employment. Particularly around Health and community services and awareness of trades.


  1. Use new technology and training for all schools from the age of 12 to access high quality information and interactive sessions about future career opportunities. This should incorporate technology such as Virtual Reality so students can have an immersed experience in the day or task of a career type. This should include all materials needed by teachers and advisors within schools to follow up and be able to provide the information to students on opportunities, projected income etc.


  • Place-based programs and training depending on industry – While some work has been done in this space, more should be. With the availability of online learning, place-based programs that encourage training and employment in communities is key. Where students may be able to earn and learn is ideal. A recent story in Cobar showed that TAFE NSW could not offer online delivery for enrolled nursing. The student did not want to leave the area or drive to attend the Dubbo campus, three hours away. The student then had to study via TAFE QLD to be able to complete this online. I want to support further education in roles that we need filled on the ground in our communities.


  1. NSW Government to ensure more courses are available online or blended with subsidised travel where necessary. A $250.00 card is not enough. If an individual could study to become a nurse in a regional area and travel twice a year for practical sessions, this would have more impact and provide more opportunities to stay in regional communities to live and work long-term.
  • Industry consultation – Genuine and regular industry consultation is needed to understand supply and demand of workforce and adequate projections for planning purposes. The majority of workforce planning documents across departments do not clearly show what the projections need to be to meet demand. This is integral to good planning and should be adopted across the board.


  1. A mandate is introduced that ensures all departments engage in genuine consultation with industry representatives, unions, chambers of commerce, local and federal government and relevant research bodies/organisations when developing workforce planning documents and models to ensure it adequately captures community needs and identifies any relevant gaps or issues that may impact the ability to deliver on a service or project.


  • Avoid duplication and make use of the people on the ground – The Government should always utilise existing organisations and agencies with expertise in regions to deliver services. Regarding workforce, these include programs such as the ‘Welcome Experience’ and GROW (Growing Regions of Welcome) pilot program. The GROW program is using existing organisations but should be expanded as a priority and used for primary migration and not just secondary. This should also be adopted between levels of government. A further couple of million dollars for another move to the regions campaign wouldn’t be as effective as jumping on an already established program like the Commonwealth funded ‘Move to More’ Campaign delivered by the Regional Australia Institute. Existing programs should be supported and not duplicated, this results in a lack of outcomes and a waste of funds.


  1. The GROW Pilot program to be immediately expanded to include more regional areas
  2. Provide funding and support to existing regional promotion campaigns and programs. These should be leveraged as a priority for efficiency and effectiveness. The saving in funding should be diverted to other much needed complimentary programs and services that have not been addressed.
  3. Multicultural NSW to work with organisations with expertise such as Welcoming Cities and the Regional Australia Institute to deliver information and support packages to local government and employers on the needs of Culturally and Linguistically Diverse (CALD) new residents and employees. This could be delivered by organisations who are already in our communities and will be able to hit the ground running. The Welcome Experience is currently only a pilot program and is directed at front line workers only. It also doesn’t include assistance for employers or local government specifically to work together.


  • Communication between departments and government – It should be common practice to work with other departments within NSW and other levels of government to understand the need at a state & national level. Where possible, the government should combine services and factor in upcoming changes e.g., aged care facilities will now need Registered Nurses 24/7, this will result in further shortages and issues. The change to training for early childhood education around the need to complete a Certificate III prior to a Diploma has put further stress on the industry and many centres are unable to provide childcare to other types of workforce we desperately need. These issues work against each other and in tandem, more communication would highlight this at an earlier stage.


  1. A mandate is introduced that ensures all departments engage in genuine consultation with industry representatives, unions, chambers of commerce, local and federal government and relevant research bodies/organisations when developing workforce planning documents and models to ensure it adequately captures community needs and identifies any relevant gaps or issues that may impact the ability to deliver on a service or project.



  • Think outside the box with incentives - $10,000.00 is not enough to entice the average person to pick up their entire life and move locations. This is particularly relevant if it is a family or couple. How many people would take their children out of school and ask their partner to move from a stable life? Incentives for return to regions for graduates where training or further study is not accessible in regional communities could be a different option, as well as career progression packages. Consult with people in the occupations that are needed and find out what might make them consider a change.


  • New and old – There needs to be a balance between graduate or entry level positions and attraction methods for regional positions and retaining the existing qualified and experienced workforce. What would make a new Registered Nurse come and work in Nyngan vs. what does an existing full-time Registered Nurse in Nyngan need to stay. Again, genuine consultation with people on the ground is needed prior to planning or funding new programs. I want to support programs that work and achieve outcomes, not box ticking exercises.



  1. Start genuine consultation with industry representatives, peak bodies, unions and university graduates or those studying key professions like trades on what types of incentives would encourage or support them to genuinely seek employment in regional areas. According to research, the large movement of people switching jobs isn’t just about money and government needs to be flexible in what can be delivered.
  2. Streamline the availability of programs such as the regional relocation scheme to more industries and make the process easy to navigate and beneficial. This should include eligibility if the business is recruiting from out of state or offshore or recruiting from a Category 2 Designated Regional Area.


  • Government should support ways to reduce competitiveness across major projects and major industry. The Job Creation Fund, new major infrastructure projects, Inland Rail, expansions of existing sites and the Renewable Energy Zone (REZ) all put combined pressure on the need for similar skillsets. The shortages of trades need to be considered and factored into planning and funding of major projects. Could there be a way to utilise the same workforce and move from site to site to ensure completion based on need and priority? These things need to be considered, planned for, and addressed for future workforce planning on projects.


  1. A mandate is introduced that ensures all departments engage in genuine consultation with industry representatives, unions, chambers of commerce, local and federal government and relevant research bodies/organisations when developing workforce planning documents and models to ensure it adequately captures community needs and identifies any relevant gaps or issues that may impact the ability to deliver on a service or project.
  2. Deliver opportunities for major projects to run concurrently so workforce is adaptable and flexible to meet needs


  • Incorporate Local Decision-Making Models – particularly in youth programs, local decision making, and place-based programs need to be the new normal. Each community has different cultural and socio-economic needs. The new generations coming through will become our next workforce and need to be cared for and encouraged in a way that will have the best outcome for communities.


  1. Have genuine consultation through the NSW Coalition of Aboriginal Regional Alliances (NCARA), other Aboriginal organisations, local education providers at all levels, industry representatives and communities about funding new programs that would have the most impact on youth in their community and build our future workforce.
  2. Have mandated reporting on clear quantifiable and measurable outcomes for youth programs funded and delivered by the NSW Government or other agencies and organisations to ensure funding is being spent where needed and is delivering on what it is meant to.


Media contact Troy Lennon 0447 381 148


















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