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Drawing a black on skills


By Claire Heaney, December 16, 2009


TECHNOLOGY company Renewtek is feeling the pinch of a countrywide skills shortage.


With a national survey showing that 76 per cent of bosses have reported trouble getting skilled workers, group managing director Fergus Porter says his company expects to be forced offshore to recruit the specialists it will need when demand picks up.


“During the economic downturn we have put people before profits,” Mr Porter said.


“We have invested in training and upskilling people for our Australian operation. This has enabled us to go to market with a specialist technical offering. It made perfect sense to us, having made this investment, we should do all we could to retain our staff as it would be difficult to replace them.”


Melbourne-based Renewtek specialises in cutting-edge software and services to the financial and telecommunications industries.


A new survey by the Australian Institute of Management confirms the Renewtek experience of businesses cutting into profits to retain staff. Many are scared they will lose workers before the good times return.


Bigger organisations, employing 200 or more staff, were harder hit with 78 per cent saying they were battling to get skills needed.


Smaller organisations, with 50 or fewer employees, have experienced the lowest skills gap at 68 per cent.


Drawn from the AIMdatabase, the Australia’s Workforce Skills Gap study surveyed more than 2000 executives across all industries.


AIM Victorian/Tasmanian chief executive Susan Heron said skills shortages were across the board and no industry stood out.


She said small and medium enterprises were finding that their efforts to keep good people were cutting into their profits.


“They have invested in their staff. I think there is a bit of a message there,” she said.


“The SMEs have learnt from the downturn of the 1990s that when the good times come around again you need to have staff.”


Ms Heron said that in the 1990s employers cut so deeply that when the economy picked up they did not have the staff.


She said bosses had to look at non-salary benefits to keep staff happy. This could be more flexible hours, salary packaging and health benefits.




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