Cobar Better Connections Workshop
Oxley Employment Service Area
21 August 2007
Brief hello and welcome to country.
It is good to see representatives here today from a wide range of organisations – not only Australian Government funded but also a
range of other service providers, local business, the local chamber, and also State government representatives.
The Better Connections workshops are part of the Employer Demand and Workplace Flexibility Strategy announced by the Australian Government in the 2005 Budget. The Department of Employment and Workplace Relations (DEWR) is running a series of workshops around Australia.
These workshops provide us with a good opportunity to discuss the local labour market. We look forward to hearing your views on issues affecting the local area and to look at ways to work collectively towards addressing these issues.
The presentation and the outcomes of today’s meeting will be placed on the Australian Government’s Workplace portal on the internet (www.workplace.gov.au/bcw).
Origins: The Department undertakes a range of research and analysis
in relation to the labour market. The workshops provide an opportunity to share some of this information with people who can make things happen on the ground and use it in a practical way.
Almost every day you open up a newspaper you see an article about skill shortages in a particular industry. The Department undertakes a lot of work in relation to this issue and works with a range of other agencies including the Department of Education, Science and Training (particularly in relation to vocational education and training) and the Department of Immigration and Citizenship (in relation to its skilled migration programme) – also the Department of Industry, Tourism and
Resource and the Department of Transport and Regional Services.
Running a series of workshops in specific locations was identified as one way in which we could share some of this work and use it as a basis for identifying issues, opportunities and linkages relevant to a local area. And in many cases tap into some of the work that is already underway in the local area.
The object of the workshops is to:
develop local strategies to address local labour supply and skill shortage issues,
increase labour market participation for the target groups – mature
aged, parents, people with a disability, Indigenous Australians, long-term unemployed, people from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds and youth
establish and further develop linkages between relevant organisations.
To give you a feel for the activities relating to some of the other
workshops I’ll just give a few brief examples of the sorts of work that
has resulted from previous Better Connections Workshops:
Employment programs in various industries for highly disadvantaged
job seekers, including prevocational training and placement with
Employer forums for local businesses.
More effective working relationships between local DEWR-funded
Employment Service Providers and other organisations in the area.
Australian Apprenticeship pilot
Try-a-trade expos with local TAFE colleges
Local Employment Promotional campaigns
Employment and Training Expos
Welcome and Introductions – There is a lot to cover today and we
have provided you with pamphlets and other promotional material to
assist you in finding out about some of the labour market programmes
and services available.
Better Connections presentation – Ivan Neville, Assistant Secretary,
Labour Supply and Skills Branch, Industry Strategies Branch, will
provide the workshop presentation which includes a range of local
demographic and labour market information to give a good profile of
the region and form the basis for discussion.
Identification and discussion of issues – we will be looking for ideas
and opportunities to better connect labour demand and supply in your
Development of an action plan – this section of the workshop will focus on labour market issues that can be realistically addressed at the local
level by utilising existing resources and programmes.
Drawing it together – collectively we would like to come away today
with some clear actions and an idea of who is doing what and when.
I’m sure many of you have attended workshops in the past where
there have been lots of ideas and discussion of issues but not much
happens after the event – we hope to avoid that.
It is also worth mentioning that we see DEWR’s role as that of
information sharing. In some cases we may be required to act as a
catalyst for some initiatives – but the aim is for responsibility and ownership of an action plan to be taken at the local level.
Thank you. I would now like to introduce Ivan Neville to give the
This map shows the Employment Service Area (ESA) of Oxley.
The information on skills in demand focuses on this ESA.
This is a broad profile of the Oxley ESA.
Adult Population – Age break down
In June 2005, the estimated working age population (aged 15 - 64) in the Oxley region was around 8600.
In general, the adult population (15+) in the Oxley region was slightly younger than Australia overall. For example, 65.7% of the working age population are aged 15-44 compared with 63.6% for both the State and Australia (Source: ABS Population by Age and Gender, June
2005 - 3235.0.55.001).
In the 12 months to March 2007, the unemployment rate for the Oxley region stood at 6.5%, which is higher than the rate for both the State and Australia (5.2% and 4.7% respectively). The unemployment rate is down from 7.6 per cent in the 12 months to March 2005. The unemployment rate varied across this region, from 3.6% in Cobar to 13.3% in Brewarrina (39% of the Labour Force identified as Indigenous).
(Source: DEWR Small Area Labour Markets March 2007)
More than one quarter (28.6%) of the working age population are in receipt of a Centrelink allowance which is significantly higher than Australia overall (17.8%).
In 2001, a lower proportion of the population in the Oxley ESA had completed post school qualifications (27.1%) than NSW (36.3%).
A smaller proportion of the Oxley ESA population had completed a degree or higher (7.3%) than NSW (13.6%).
(Source: 2001 Census)
At the time of the 2001 Census, 4.4% of the Oxley population were
born overseas, compared with 23.2% for NSW and 21.7% for Australia.
Around 1.7% of the Oxley population were born in non-English
speaking countries which is significantly lower than NSW (16.1%) and
(Source: 2001 Census)
At the time of the 2001 Census, around 1740 people in the Oxley
region (17.2% of the population) identified themselves as Indigenous.
Also at this time, the unemployment rate for the Indigenous population
was almost four times that of the non-Indigenous population (21.6%
compared with 5.4%).
Unemp LF Bogan (A) 6.1 1634
Bourke (A) 8.1 2001
Brewarrina (A) 13.3 1026
Cobar (A) 3.6 2766
Another important part of the profile of the Oxley area is the distribution of employment across industries.
At the time of the 2001 Census, Agriculture, Forestry and Fishing was the largest employing industry across the ESA, making up almost one quarter (24%) of employment. Other important industries include Mining and Retail Trade.
The distribution of employment across this ESA is quite different to Australia and it is these differences that will affect the local labour market. Most notably, Agriculture, Forestry and Fishing accounts for a significantly larger proportion of employment in the Oxley ESA than for Australia overall (24% compared with 4%), although it should be noted that the drought will have had a negative impact on this industry since the 2001 Census. The proportion of employment in Mining is also much higher than Australia (9% compared with 0.9%).
Those industries that employ a high proportion of mature age workers (e.g. Agriculture, Forestry and Fishing and Transport and Storage) will be more susceptible to the impacts of the ageing of the population. Employers in these industries may need to consider ways of retaining mature age workers in their business for longer through strategies like part-time work and job sharing rather than losing experienced workers through retirement.
Next we look at skills in demand in the Oxley region.
Information on skills in demand is difficult to obtain. The Department monitors and undertakes research on skills in demand and prepares listings of these occupations at the State and national level. The prime focus of DEWR’s approach is surveying employers who have recently advertised vacancies for selected skilled occupations, although contact is also made with industry and employer organisations. This information is published on the Australian Government’s Workplace site (www.workplace.gov.au/skillsindemand).
Some information on skills in demand is also contained in the publication ‘Australian Jobs 2007’. This publication includes a matrix
of the job prospects for 400 occupations and is available today in your packs.
To gain a greater understanding of the current skills in demand in the Oxley region, DEWR conducted a telephone survey of local employers in July 2007. Findings from the survey provide a good indication of the extent and nature of recruitment difficulties that local employers face and can identify labour market opportunities into which employment service providers can tap.
The Survey of Employers’ Recruitment Experiences collected
information from 155 businesses across 7 key industries.
Overall the survey found that:
48% of employers surveyed had recruited or attempted to recruit in the past 12 months, which is on par with regions surveyed elsewhere. Recruitment over the last 12 months varied by industry, with high activity in the Mining, Retail Trade and Accommodation, Cafés and
Restaurants industries and low activity in the Agriculture, Forestry and
The 155 employers surveyed attempted to fill 720 vacancies, of which
only 5% (or 37 vacancies) remained unfilled. This proportion of unfilled
vacancies is lower than regions surveyed across Australia to date
(8%). Although the overall unfill rate was quite low, there were certain
industries that encountered difficulty recruiting and subsequently had a
higher proportion of unfilled vacancies than others. Employers from
the Property and Business Services (12% vacancies unfilled) and
Health and Community Services (11%) industries were worst affected.
On the other hand, employers from the Construction, Accommodation,
Cafés and Restaurants and Transport and Storage industries filled all
In addition, 15% of employers reported one or more unfilled vacancies
in their business.
Of the employers who had attempted to recruit in the last 12 months,
just over half (58%) reported difficulty filling vacancies. This was most
commonly reported by employers in the Construction (75% reported
difficulty), Health and Community Services (71%), Property and
Business Services (83%) industries. Employers from the
Accommodation, Cafés and Restaurants industry reported less
difficulty recruiting over the last 12 months.
Key Industries – number of employers surveyed
Retail Trade 37 Agriculture, Forestry and Fishing 32 Accommodation, Cafés and Restaurants 24 Health & Community Services 17 Construction 11 Property and Business Services 11
Mining 9 Manufacturing 3 Wholesale Trade 3 Education 3 Government Administration and Defence 2 Transport and Storage 1 Finance and Insurance 1 Personal and Other Services 1
One of the key indicators to measure the recruitment difficulties in an
occupation is the degree of success that employers had in filling
vacancies with suitable job seekers.
This chart shows the number of vacancies that were reported by
employers in the Oxley area as their most recent vacancy. These are
broken down by skill level and into three parts indicating whether the
employer filled the vacancy (blue section), filled the vacancy with staff
who required development (yellow section) or whether the vacancy
was not filled (red section). In total, 9% of the most recent vacancies
reported by employers were not filled, 9% were filled with staff who
required development and 82% were filled with suitable staff.
We can see from the chart that a large number of the most recent
vacancies were for lower skilled occupations (69 vacancies), and of
84% were filled with suitable staff;
13% were filled with staff who required development; and
3% remained unfilled.