The price of freedom for freelancers

A 'portfolio approach' to jobs is making more employees consider freelance life as a long term proposition. CREDIT:LINDSEY THOMAS

To all the freelancers: would you give up self-employment for a full-time corporate job that offers greater security? A change that trades the autonomy and lifestyle of freelance work for the regular pay, benefits and interaction of an office job.

I would struggle with it. Having been self-employed for 12 years I cannot imagine commuting to and from work, taking instructions from a boss, wasting time in unnecessary meetings, being stressed by company politics or sitting at a cubicle all day. Or sacrificing income and relying on one employer to put food on the table, in a ruthless jobs market.

A 'portfolio approach' to jobs is making more employees consider freelance life as a long term proposition.
A ‘portfolio approach’ to jobs is making more employees consider freelance life as a long term proposition. CREDIT:LINDSEY THOMAS

I’m not alone. About half of freelancers surveyed in the latest Freelancing in America Report said there is “no amount of money where they would take a traditional job”.

For the first time, as many survey respondents viewed freelancing as a long-term career choice, not a temporary way to make money.

Technology is making it easier for freelancers to find work, and the gig economy, despite its faults, is encouraging a portfolio, project-based approach to jobs.

For context, an estimated 57 million people freelance in the United States, or just over a third of the country’s workforce, and half of them believe they will never return to a traditional job.

Yes, extrapolating survey results can be dangerous. Released this month, the Freelancing in America Report 2019 surveyed 6001 US adults. It broadly defines freelancers as people who have engaged in supplemental, project-based or contract-based work within the past 12 months. The data picks up freelancers, independent contractors, “moonlighters” such a food couriers, and “job hustlers”, those people in full-time work who have a part-time gig on the side.

My guess is the online sample attracted many successful freelancers, skewing the results and positivity. There are downsides with freelancing: no leave entitlements, lack of professional development, isolation and clients who take forever to pay.

Also, the finding that “no amount of money” would entice half of US freelancers to return to a corporate job is curious. Everybody has their price and I’m sure many would jump at an office job that doubled or tripled their income even if they missed the freelance lifestyle.

I doubt the US finding would be anywhere near as strong here. There is scant data on Australia’s gig economy and freelancer estimates vary. The Future of Work in Australia report in 2018 estimated just under 10 per cent of Australian workers have multiple jobs (excluding independent contractors who have one job) and that the figure has been steady for years.

Talk about the gig economy boom in Australian is arguably overstated, although numbers and growth are much higher if independent contractors are added in the mix.

Caveats aside, the US report has several implications.

First, freelancers will become a larger part of the global workforce in the next decade. More part-timers are moving to full-time freelance work and freelancers contribute nearly $US1 trillion to the US economy.

Second, there is growing anti-corporate sentiment among freelancers. When half of US freelancers say they would never return to a traditional corporate work, you know something is wrong with the job design, corporate culture and how companies treat staff.

Third, industry will struggle to attract talent from a large and growing pool of freelancers in coming decades as skills shortages intensify. Companies will need to replace retiring baby boomers but more people will work for themselves and be reluctant to return to a traditional job. The gig economy that helped corporates lower costs could come back to bite them.

When half of US freelancers say they would never return to a traditional corporate work, you know something is wrong…

Fourth, governments worldwide are off the pace in the gig economy. Scant thought has been given to how freelancers and other self-employed people are protected, encouraged and developed, or to the infrastructure needed for an army of freelancer workers. More councils launching co-working facilities in the suburbs and regional areas would be a good start.

How can new regulations help freelancers flourish and ensure the gig economy does not become a sewer of freelancer exploitation by big business? For example, moonlighters in the on-demand economy – food couriers are particularly vulnerable. Left unchecked, the gig economy is an avenue to bring developing-nation-like wages and conditions to parts of our workforce.

Universities and vocational training colleges are also lagging in the gig economy. What is their role in helping people develop specialist freelance skills and encouraging them to engage in lifelong learning and professional development? Too much university education is still geared towards corporate work.

How are service providers responding to the freelance boom? When will it be easier for freelancers to borrow money from banks or rent a property for a home-based business, or get cheaper legal and accounting advice or insurance?

How does being a freelancer affect your chances of getting a loan?

And what of the societal implications of the freelancing boom and gig economy? For every successful micro-venture, many more struggle. Also, as the supply of freelancers grows worldwide, their income and conditions will inevitably stagnate – a trend well underway in some knowledge-based jobs. Then there are potential health issues as more people work on their own and lose the benefits of office interaction and colleague support.

Thankfully, Australia seems a long way behind the US in the freelancer stakes (depending on how it is defined). Yet the trend is heading in one direction: more people leaving traditional jobs for self-employment and having a portfolio of project-based work.

‘Dead-end job’: Trucking sector demands training overhaul

Governments are looking for the right way to pay for catch-up infrastructure.

Small businesses in Australia’s trucking industry say the sector is struggling due to a poor reputation and difficulty recruiting experienced drivers into what many wrongly view as a “dead-end job”.

A senate committee is investigating the viability, safety and sustainability of the nation’s road transport sector, including a focus on how the sector will respond to the growth of global retail logistics giants and their delivery networks.

Governments are looking for the right way to pay for catch-up infrastructure.
Governments are looking for the right way to pay for catch-up infrastructure. CREDIT:ANDREW QUILTY

The Transport Workers Union is yet to make its submission but national secretary Michael Kaine said it would demand an increase in standards and safety at a time when the margins of smaller businesses were being squeezed, particularly as global delivery giants like Amazon expanded in Australia.

“Our submission will focus on lifting standards so we can save businesses, jobs and lives in our industry. The crisis needs to be addressed urgently: transport workers have by far the highest number of deaths for any industry while all road users are at risk because of the high proportion of people dying in truck crashes. Businesses are going bust every month,” he said.

Early submissions from business owners highlighted fundamental problems with training and recruitment in the sector, with no standard pathways to enter the sector.

Drivers require trucking licences according to state and vehicle requirements though there is currently no standard qualification beyond this to enter the industry.

“The fact that the industry is held in such low regard and dare I say ‘contempt’ by so many within society is disheartening,” chief executive of refrigerated transport company South West Express Mark Mazza said in his submission.

The fact that the industry is held in such low regard and dare I say ‘contempt’ by so many within society is disheartening.

South West Express chief executive, Mark Mazza

“Let’s face it, the industry is seen by many to be a dead-end job.”

Mr Mazza told the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age policymakers did not appreciate that the transport industry required highly skilled drivers with training beyond the operation of heavy vehicles.

“The biggest single issue is that there is a disconnect between the education system into our industry… There’s no standard regarding procedures and skill set, it’s a workplace-by-workplace shemozzle,” he said.

TWU secretary Michael Kaine said raising standards would be the focus of the union's submission on the future of the road transport sector.
TWU secretary Michael Kaine said raising standards would be the focus of the union’s submission on the future of the road transport sector. CREDIT:PAUL BRAVEN

The number of Australians working in Australia’s trucking industry is set to grow from 209,000 to 223,000 over the next five years, according to the Department of Jobs and Small Business.

The sector has a large proportion of older workers with the average age of an Australian truck driver 47 years old, and more than half the driving population is over 45.

The federal government has a number of roads initiatives including its Heavy Vehicle Safety and Productivity Program however this is focused on road and infrastructure improvements for safety, rather than driver training.

Minister for Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Development Michael McCormack was contacted for comment.

Other operators pointed to the overall low reputation of the sector as a barrier to attracting new talent.

“If the public starts viewing the Transport Industry as a fabulous and an essential part of society needs, it will then be more accepted on our roads and also as a chosen career path for future employment,” director of Dubbo business Tippings Transport, Sally Tipping wrote in her submission.

The inquiry is accepting submissions until October 17 with a plan to report to the government by April 2020.


Wanted: Human Skills

Making the difference between employee success and failure are skills that don’t appear on a resume, but can these “human skills” be taught?

Over the course of my career, I’ve learned that there are key skills that consistently contribute to employee success, no matter what the employee’s level. They are the softer skills – skills that make us better people and give us a high “get-it factor.”

They are skills like listening, empathy, creative thinking, focus, a solution orientation, accountability, stakeholder management, self-motivation and the ability to take risks and fail better, again and again.

These skills have always been sought, but are now more desirable than ever, as companies begin to ask every employee to behave as a leader.The market is craving soft skills because they are a necessary complement to the skyrocketing need for STEM experts. In fact, in a 2018 study by LinkedIn, 57% of leaders said “soft skills are more important than hard skills.”

Soft, or what we like to call “human skills,” elevate a person’s technical and professional experiences, allowing them to ramp up fast, and deliver meaningful insights and practical solutions so teams can make steady progress every single day.

“Hire for the skills you can’t teach.” It’s advice I received early on and have taken to heart my entire career.  The question is – are human skills teachable or are they innate?

The truth is, human skills exist within us all, but not everyone exhibits them to the extent necessary in the workplace. I believe these skills (and behaviors) can be taught, in the sense that they can be leveraged to potential — but only if leaders emphasize and reward the right behaviors.

Here are three ways to improve the impact of softer skills in the workplace:

1)     Set clear priorities and expectations about what success looks like. Are you measuring success based on what was achieved, or based on both what was achieved, and howit was achieved? Establish a clear set of behavioral expectations and priorities for your team.

2)     Incentivize individuals based on these priorities, as well as their business goals.Include measures for soft skills in your performance management process. Recognize and celebrate teams and individuals who are doing things like listening, showing empathy and creative thinking, collaborating across siloes, and taking calculated risks.

For example, a sports and entertainment company we work with at Notion Consulting used to host a ceremony where leaders awarded a person and team a “best failure” trophy each year. It was an opportunity to recognize people who took risks and failed spectacularly, using all their technical and “human” skills.

3)     Create a workplace where a balance between human and technical skills is the norm. Here are a few examples of how you can influence the growth of soft skills alongside technical ones:

·       To encourage teamwork and innovative thinking, create opportunities for individuals who wouldn’t normally cross paths to collaborate.

·       To build empathy, incorporate storytelling in your corporate messaging wherever possible.

·       To encourage a solution-oriented mindset, spend more time developing people who are generating ideas and solutions than on those who are consistently negative or finding fault without alternative suggestions.

·       To improve self-awareness, provide leadership development opportunities as part of your learning and development curriculum.

As the tight labor market continues, employers will continue to search deeply to find candidates who have the right combination of technical and “human” skills. The gaps in “getting it” may or may not be obvious when an employee is first hired, but they are critical for long-term career success.

With focused effort, you can amplify the human skills and behaviors that impact this success. Providing structure to your priorities, expectations, programs, policies, and experiences will help your people make the most of their hard and soft skills — and ultimately, provide lasting benefits to your employees, the community and your business.

Australian government stumps up AU$182m for help with its Entrepreneurs’ Programme

The Department of Industry, Innovation, and Science is after approximately 10 delivery partners that can provide expert advice to help participating businesses grow, innovate, and commercialise.

The Department of Industry, Innovation, and Science has allocated AU$182 million to build a network of delivery partners that can provide consistent expert business advisory and facilitation services to eligible businesses Australia wide under the Entrepreneurs’ Programme.

According to request for tender (RFT) documents, the department is looking to contract approximately 10 delivery partners that are each able to employ a minimum of five staff to ensure there is adequate take up and demand of the Entrepreneurs’ Programme, as well to help participating businesses grow, innovate, and commercialise. The contracts will be initially for three years from 1 July 2020 until 30 June 2023, with the option to extend it twice for one-year.

Specifically, there needs to be a single delivery partner that can provide commercialisation services to customers nationally; a single delivery partner to provide innovation and incubator support services nationally; and one or more delivery partners to provide expert business advisory and facilitation services in nominated geographic areas on a state or regional basis.

“The programme needs strong, collaborative, and constructive partnerships with delivery partners who will use their knowledge, resources, and networks to support a national approach to delivering expert business advisory and facilitation assistance within the small and medium-sized enterprises (SME) ecosystem,” the document stated.

​Big dreams, big failures: Why most startups flop and what we can learn from them

​Big dreams, big failures: Why most startups flop and what we can learn from them

It might be harder to have a profitable startup in Eastern Europe than in Silicon Valley, but the lessons from failures are invaluable to tech entrepreneurs everywhere.

Read More

“Delivery partners will promote and build SME capabilities and encourage high value innovation to improve business growth, innovation, and commercialisation outcomes. The programme is seeking delivery partners who are innovative in their thinking, customer, and partnership focused, collaborative, and committed to implementing and supporting the programme service offering.”

The Entrepreneurs’ Programme was initially announced under the federal government’s AU$1.1 billion National Innovation and Science Agenda in December 2015. It was originally announced as an AU$8 million initiative but was allocated an additional AU$15 million over four years as part of former Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s election campaign in 2016.

It was designed to help SMEs accelerate commercialisation; provide access to a network of experienced business advisers and facilitators to improve business practices and enhance overall competitiveness; assist new and existing incubators; and help businesses identify knowledge gaps that hinder on their business growth.

The programmed re-gained attention during Budget 2017 when the Australian government announced it would “refocus” its incubator support tranche of the Entrepreneurs’ Programme.

The program had been hailed as contributing to the government’s economic growth priority by supporting incubators, accelerators, and businesses to foster the development of startups.

Under the tender requirements, deliver partners will need to carry out promotional services targeting eligible businesses through activities including sponsorship, attendance, or presenting at industry shows or conferences; distribution of marketing material; promotion of services through social media, print media, and radio media; and engaging with media through editorial content and case studies.

See also: How to manage a startup: 6 tips (TechRepublic)

Delivery partners are also expected to deliver quarterly business intelligence reports to the department that outlines information that relates to eligible businesses and business more broadly, such as knowledge of relevant business and industry trends; regional and geographical issues that are likely to impact on proposed policy programs; and provide knowledge of relevant programs that are available for eligible businesses such as Industry Growth Centres.

Delivery partners must also be able to demonstrate a “strong commitment to culture, collaboration, values, and good programme outcomes for businesses”, the RFT added, encouraging those with expert business advisory and facilitation services experience, as well as industry knowledge, interaction, and linkages to apply.

In addition, the document said nominating tenderers must specify the geographical areas they will be able to service.

“While fly-in-fly-out, or drive-in-drive-out arrangements from a capital city base are acceptable options for the delivery of programme services in regional and remote Australia, successful delivery partners would need to demonstrate how such an arrangement would deliver a very strong understanding of the challenges and opportunities within the particular region,” the RFT document said.

“The department expects specified personnel to establish state-based networks with collaboration and strong relationships maintained across sectors and delivery partners. This will provide eligible businesses with access to a wide variety of skills and capabilities to support their growth and expansion aspirations. Delivery partners will play a key role in establishing these networks on behalf of the programme.”

The deadline to apply for the tender is 28 October 2019.


There Is A Growing Skills Gap Between What Employers Want And What Employees Offer – How Your Career Can Benefit

Growing skills gap requires continual training and retraining
Growing skills gap requires continual training and retrainingGETTY

A survey of 600 human resource leaders by Wiley Education Services and Future Workplace shows that 64% (nearly two-thirds) see a skills gap in their companies. This is the second year the Closing the Skills Gap surveyhas been done, and the 64% who see a gap is up from 52% last year. As a result, the companies surveyed are expanding how they get the skills they need, including:

1.      Expanding the candidate pool – over 60% of respondents have hired people considered retired or unemployed. 90% said they would hire a candidate that doesn’t have a 4-year college degree

2.      Using AI rather than retraining workers – 40% of respondents preferred to invest in AI over upskilling

3.      Hiring gig workers to fill the gap – 47% of respondents hire temp over full-time employees for needed skills

If you are currently employed, you need to continually update your skillsToday In: Leadership

You need updated skills to remain competitive, and while this benefits your company, do not assume your company will do it for you. Another finding from Closing The Gap 2019 was that less than half of companies (48%) spend more than $500 per year on continuing education for each employee. This means you need to upskill yourself.

Pay attention to what your company is hiring for and which departments are getting management attention and resources. See if you can work in these areas. This could be a temporary move, such as working on a cross-functional project that allows you to collaborate with the priority groups. Or make a lateral move if you are not wedded to your current role or want to take advantage of an emerging area. At the very least, take advantage of any training your company offers. You can also design your own training, including relying on mentors, your alma mater or professional associations.

If you are unemployed, re-target your job search to a growing area

Technology skills are in-demand, but a survey by LinkedIn of the top 25 hard skills also included the non-tech areas of people management, sales leadership and translation among the top 10 skills. Dedicate some of your job search activity to training for in-demand skills, getting hands-on experience through volunteering or temp work and updating your resume and other marketing to include these skills as keywords, so prospective employers can find you.

The Closing The Gap 2019 survey confirms that employers hire from the retired and unemployed ranks — it’s a myth that you can’t get back into the workforce after time away. The survey also confirms that employers hire for temporary roles. Temp work is a great foot-in-the-door strategy, and temp work helps your career even if you don’t get hired full-time.

If you are a consultant or entrepreneur, help employers fill the growing gap

One reason the right skills are hard to find is that the pace of change makes necessary skills temporary. 40% of survey respondents estimated that skills are usable for four years or less. Does it make sense for employers to invest so much in hiring, training and retraining only to have to do it again in a short amount of time? This conundrum is an opportunity for a business that can provide the right skills at the right time.

Of course, there is still opportunity in providing the hiring, training and retraining. The survey also highlighted AI as a solution companies are increasingly looking at. As a business owner, look at your offerings and see if any of them can be marketed as a solution to the growing skills gap problem.

A problem for employers is an opportunity for your career

Whether you are employed, unemployed or self-employed, there are ways to make the skills gap work in your favor. Paying attention to what companies need (such as closing the skills gap) is a best practice for managing your career. Companies hire and retain people who provide solutions to their problems. The best job security is to be a problem-solver.


‘Going for gold’: Adore founder sells majority stake to private equity

Private equity fund Quadrant has snapped up a majority stake in online beauty retailer Adore Beauty.

Founder Kate Morris says the sale gives her “the opportunity to pick things up a bit and really go for gold”.

Kate Morris has sold a 60 per cent stake in Adore Beauty.
Kate Morris has sold a 60 per cent stake in Adore Beauty. Credit:Kristoffer Paulsen

The 41 year old started Adore from the garage of her Melbourne home and with her partner James Height has grown it into Australia’s largest online beauty retailer with turnover of $52 million last year.

Adore Beauty has been self funded since Ms Morris bought back the stake she sold to Woolworths in 2016 and she said Quadrant’s cash will help drive the startup’s growth.

“There are challenges to being self funded when you are growing fast,” she said. “We are looking forward to being better resourced and taking advantages of other opportunities that will come our way.”

Adore Beauty will use the undisclosed sum to expand its product offerings, increase marketing and invest in technology and content to improve customer engagement.

We came across people who didn’t get it. More fool them isn’t it?

Kate Morris

Ms Morris said further international expansion was also a possibility.

“We are still getting lots of growth in Australia and we have just launched in New Zealand but we already get quite a lot of traffic from international customers as it is and at the moment we are not able to fill that demand,” she said.

Adore Beauty is the third company founded by a woman that Quadrant has invested in this month. The firm earlier bought majority stakes in baby swaddle business Love To Dream and period underwear brand ModiBodi.

“We came across people who didn’t get it. More fool them isn’t it? People who don’t have the ability to understand a business for the female customer, there are going to be a lot of things they miss out on. We are really happy we found Quadrant and I’m sure they are happy they found us.”

Quadrant managing director Justin Ryan, partner Simon Pither and investment associate Youngsoo Kim will join Adore’s board.

Mr Ryan said the firm was attracted to Adore Beauty’s online brand built over 20 years.

“The beauty industry is showing strong growth driven by social media and we believe Adore is an innovator well positioned for the future,” he said.

Follow MySmallBusiness on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.


Tech jobs to grow by 100K in five years

Australia's digital workforce is expected to grow by 100,000 over the next five years, a report says
Australia’s digital workforce is expected to grow by 100,000 over the next five years, a report saysImage:EPA

Australia will have an extra 100,000 technology jobs in five years time, as the digital sector ramps up its contribution to economic growth.

But local IT graduates and skilled migrants alone aren’t expected to meet the rising demand for technology workers.

The findings have emerged in the Australian Computer Society’s annual stocktake of the nation’s digital workforce and economy, prepared by Deloitte Access Economics.

The Digital Pulse forecasts Australia will have about 100,000 new IT roles by 2024, bringing the total to about 792,000.

But the nation is likely to struggle to find workers to fill them.

The pipeline of Australian technology workers is improving, with domestic students enrolled in IT degrees increasing by more than 50 per cent since the late 2000s.

There were more than 36,000 enrolments in technology degrees in 2017 and 6000 of them completed in the year.

But the report stresses there is a lead time until IT university graduates hit the ground running.

The number of enrolments in IT subjects in the vocational education and training (VET) sector also fell by 11,875 between 2016 and 2017.

Skilled workers could help businesses meet their technology needs in the short-term, but there were only 9,900 temporary skill visas issued to technology workers in 2017/18.

That was 26 per cent lower than the previous year, with the Digital Pulse citing the replacement of the 457 visa with the Temporary Skill Shortage visa.

“Meeting the voracious demands for more technology workers and increased investments from Australia’s businesses will be a huge challenge,” ACS president Yohan Ramasundara said.

The increase in technology jobs comes as IT’s contribution to economic growth is expected to grow by 40 per cent between 2018 and 2023, largely driven by mobile technology.

That is equivalent to an extra $2500 for every Australian each year.

The report, which will be launched by Treasurer Josh Frydenberg in Melbourne on Thursday evening, says Australia could maximise its digital economic dividend by prioritising skills development.

That would involve encouraging some people to consider moving to IT from other occupations.

Reducing the gap between tax rates in Australia and other countries could also encourage more digital investment, the report finds.

So too would improving the landscape for start-ups by giving entrepreneurs better access to finance and commercial infrastructure.

The Digital Pulse also recommends greater public and private investment in improving “smart city” infrastructure such as affordable, low-bandwidth wireless networks.


Vocational education reform Bill introduced

Legislation has been introduced in Parliament today that will create a unified and cohesive vocational education and training system and help New Zealanders prepare for the future of work, Education Minister Chris Hipkins said.

The Vocational Education Reform Bill achieves this by:

  • enabling workforce development councils to be established to give industry greater leadership across vocational education and training
  • establishing the New Zealand Institute of Skills & Technology to provide, arrange and support a range of vocational education and training, including on-the-job, face-to-face and distance delivery
  • providing for a smooth transition of functions and responsibilities from the current to the new system, and
  • establishing a new regulatory framework for vocational education and training.

“Industry-led Workforce development councils will provide skills leadership across the vocational education system. They will set standards and develop qualifications, endorse programmes developed by providers and advise the Tertiary Education Commission about the mix of vocational education and training needed for their respective industries,” Chris Hipkins said.

“The Bill will also establish a New Zealand Institute of Skills & Technology to provide, arrange, and support a range of education and training, including in the workplace.

“All 16 polytechnics and institutes of technology will become part of the Institute, as subsidiary companies initially. The Institute will continue the valuable role that institutes of technology and polytechnics currently have in providing foundation, degree-level and postgraduate-level education.

“The Bill includes a charter that will ensure the Institute will be responsive to the needs of all regions of New Zealand, their learners, industries, employers, and communities. It must offer a mix of education and training in each region, including on the job, face to face and distance delivery.

“And it must develop meaningful partnerships with industry, including Māori and Pacific employers, and with communities including hapū, iwi and Pacific communities.

“While the changes are significant, learners, staff and employers should be assured that the implementation and transition will be well managed and that we will continue to work with them through this transition process.

“The changes will come into force on 1 April 2020. There will be a transition period until 31 December 2022, to ensure continuity for learners and employers and to allow time to build new capacity.

“I encourage learners to enrol as they normally would in 2019 and 2020, including in apprenticeships and other multi-year programmes, and I encourage people in the workplace to keep training and employers to encourage more workers to sign up.

“Together, the changes introduced through this Bill will create a unified and cohesive system of vocational education and training, which will better serve our economy and all New Zealanders,” Chris Hipkins said.

“The select committee process will be a good opportunity to consider potential refinements to the legislation and the charter.”

The Bill is here.

/Public Release. View in full here.

Skills shortage reported by more than half of NSW businesses

Skills shortages are impacting on more than half of NSW businesses, with a survey revealing a critical mismatch between training and an organisation’s needs.

Of the 1259 businesses that responded to the 2019 Workforce Skills survey, 55.4 per cent said they were experiencing a skills shortage.

While the number of businesses experiencing a skills shortage in 2019, is lower than 2017, the organisations with the skill shortages are carrying more job ads, 82,000 this year, compared to 54,000 two years ago, the NSW Business Chamber chief executive officer Stephen Cartwright said.

“More must be done to train the next generation to ensure the economy has the requisite skills to sustain existing and future economic activity,” he said.

NSW Business Chamber chief executive Stephen Cartwright.
NSW Business Chamber chief executive Stephen Cartwright.CREDIT:PETER STOOP

“We must address the mismatch between the skills young people are obtaining and the skills businesses require, starting with ensuring that schools are making students aware of, and promoting, the breadth of options available during and after schooling, and providing more exposure to meaningful work experience.

“Doing what we’ve always done isn’t working – we have a ‘perfect storm’ of stubbornly high levels of youth unemployment, but businesses are crying out for staff.”

The survey found the main reasons behind the shortage included an inability to find suitable staff with the right blend of skills and experience. More than 43 per cent of employers said they expected to experience a skill shortage over the next 12 months. Close to 70 per cent said they had employed a person aged 24 or younger in the past 12 months and more than half felt the apprentices were not equipped for the workplace.

The NSW Business Chamber will release the survey on Monday and is calling for a doubling of the number of school-based apprenticeships in NSW each year.

It also wants industry-based careers advice for students and parents from year 9 for all schools across NSW and increased use of TAFE facilities and resources to boost training outcomes.

“Over 60 per cent of businesses reported that they would be interested in supporting more school students into work, and over 40 per cent are interested in employing more apprentices and trainees,” Mr Cartwright said.

CJD Equipment general manager Michael Lombardo with first year apprentice Lachlan Biffin
CJD Equipment general manager Michael Lombardo with first year apprentice Lachlan Biffin

Michael Lombardo, general manager at CJD Equipment Pty Ltd in Smeaton Grange near Narellan is a distributor of Volvo construction equipment. He said he has experienced a shortage of applicants for mechanical trade apprenticeships.

He received more than 100 applications after he advertised for an apprentice mechanic 12 years ago. When he advertised a similar position last November, he received three applications.

After visiting schools, Mr Lombardo said he found parents and students had a misconception about trades being a “lower class of job”.

“What we are suffering now is a legacy of the school system promoting university as the only recognition of success post school,” he said.

“Trades are very well-paid jobs and you are getting a four-year head start on people who are going to uni. The schools are pushing university over trades. It is almost as if the schools are saying to the students if you don’t succeed at school you can get a trade.”

Mr Lombardo said his first-year apprentice Lachlan Biffin,17, applied for an apprenticeship after completing two weeks of work experience with the company when he was in year 10.

He said Lachlan tried hard at school, but did not enjoy it and his parents supported him leaving school to get an apprenticeship.

“He is enjoying TAFE and finds it much easier to apply himself as it relates directly to what he is doing each day,” Mr Lombardo said.

Mr Lombardo said the TAFE training system had been mismanaged with some students taught the wrong skills for their chosen trade. For example, courses for bike, car, truck and construction mechanics had been “clustered together” which he said had meant bike mechanics were learning irrelevant skills related to heavy plant equipment.

“A bike mechanic shouldn’t have skills for handling 100-tonne machinery,” he said.


Why Small Business Owners Should Think About Upskilling

Small business owners wear many hats, crunching numbers one minute and resolving customer complaints the next.

As your business continues to expand, you will find yourself going from working in your business to working on your business.

Recognising this shift may also come with a desire to develop your skill set in order to take your business to the next level.

Being a small business owner, you may be reluctant to take a training program or online course due to budget constraints or an unwillingness to step away from your day to day business duties.

Despite having to sacrifice some of your time and resources, upskilling is in fact an invaluable investment for small business owners.

Business owners who have previously worked a full-time job may be used to company-funded training sessions and professional development courses.

Upskilling as a small business owner, on the other hand, is more about developing the tools necessary for better business.

Transitioning from employee to employer

The transition from working in your business to working on the business is one that comes with a steep learning curve. From preemptively solving problems across the board to making better decisions, business owners who are equipped for the challenges of small business simply have a greater chance of success.

  • While you don’t have to go back to school, upskilling courses targeted at small business owners specifically are an excellent way to go.

    Developing holistic business management skills also allows you to take better charge of your business. As your business continues to grow, you will likely also establish different job titles or even entire departments. Some business owners may choose to let these departments manage themselves, while others will want to be more involved in the everyday operations of each department.

  • The right kind of professional development will enable you to grasp exciting business opportunities and stay well ahead of the competition.

    An ideal learning environment is one that has a collaborative, multi-faceted approach, allowing you to flesh out ideas and decisions, get motivated by peers and come away with a fresh perspective.

  • For these proactive business owners, upskilling is a great way to better understand their own business from the inside out.

    For example, developing tech and digital skills will give you an insight into what your IT department does, allowing you to lead the company in the right direction on the tech-front (even if you haven’t exactly mastered the plethora of coding languages!). This also limits the need to outsource, allowing for better cash flow management and lower expenses.

Skills to consider developing

For those running their own business, there are a handful of specific skill sets that are most valuable to learn.

Business planning skills are, of course, essential for all business owners and upper management. A course in this area will teach you the art of setting goals, establishing processes to meet these goals, pitching to investors with a strong business plan, and more.

A working knowledge of accounting will allow you to create a robust budget and effectively forecast sales. This will also allow you to keep an eye on your finances, identifying any room for improvement that your designated accountant can delve deeper into.

Sales and customer service are also integral given that you are the face of your company. From connecting with people to creating authentic sales pitches, your business simply won’t stay afloat without sales skills.

Finally, marketing skills will allow you to develop a solid backbone for your company, from posting on social media yourself to overseeing the efforts of your marketing team.

The good news is that upskilling doesn’t require you to go back to university. Short courses anddiplomas help you build on your existing knowledge and experience, harnessing these skills in a structured manner to improve your business.

Learning from other business owners who were once in the same position as you, or speaking directly to seasoned accountants, marketers and salespeople, are also fantastic ways of developing a wide breadth of knowledge.

As professional multitaskers, small business owners are best to pursue an upskilling program that covers all essential elements of running a business, from accounting to digital marketing.