‘No regrets’: Skills needed in search for recession-proof work

Industry and education advocates are pushing the federal government to commit to a multi-billion dollar skills package in next week's budget, saying a whole generation of workers is at risk if Australians cannot get the appropriate training employers need as the country recovers from recession.

Unemployed Australians thinking about where to find work in economy reshaped by the pandemic should look to healthcare, construction and manufacturing or boosting their digital skills, a PwC analysis of the boom areas in a post-COVID world has found.

Stan Obirek, 59, has an IT background but after being made redundant has retrained in cybersecurity.Credit:Nick Moir

"Without that, this whole generation really is significantly at risk – and it's not just school leavers, it's university graduates," the head of workforce development for the Ai Group, Megan Lilly, said.

The federal government in July unveiled a $500 million JobTrainer scheme, matched by the states, to pay for free or low cost short courses. It also set up a $1.5 billion apprentice and trainee wage subsidy program.

"That's a really good start but we're going to need a lot more and over a sustained period of time, not just one-offs," Ms Lilly said.

Existing skills shortages in healthcare and construction will be exacerbated by halts on immigration.

The Australian Education Union wants the budget to invest in vocational education courses.

"It's really critically important that people have good qualifications that lead them to really good work outcomes post-study, not just a series of short certificates," federal president Correna Haythorpe said.

PwC director Ben Hamer says training incentives would encourage people without work to retrain in areas where there will be jobs growth.

"COVID has meant a wipe-out for old-world jobs that may never return, but on the flipside, we're seeing some industries and sectors accelerate off the back of the pandemic," he said.

Stan Obirek, from Kings Park in western Sydney, is "travelling in time", returning to TAFE to study cyber security after being made redundant from his programming job in the logistics sector just prior to the pandemic.

The 59-year-old was among more than 100,000 people who enrolled in short courses at TAFE NSW during the first months of the pandemic.

Network engineer Stephanie Virgato has undertaken study in machine learning during the pandemic to boost her digital skills.Credit:Simon Schluter

Melbourne-based Telstra network engineer Stephanie Virgato also had an eye to the future when she decided to gain a micro-credential in machine learning through UTS.

"When you're working in a technology industry, the technology changes so rapidly that if you don't really keep up and you don't really do this kind of additional learning constantly, you end up getting left behind fairly quickly," Ms Virgato said.

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