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Affordable education seen as the answer to the skills shortage

By Nick Wilson | |5 minute read

A majority of Australians believe cheaper or free education courses are the best long-term solution to addressing the nation’s skills shortage.

A recent survey conducted by Immigration2Australia found that 54 per cent of respondents believe greater access to cheaper or free TAFE or university courses is the best way to address the skills shortage. This was also voted the fastest way to address the shortage by 22 per cent of respondents.

These results suggest there is an appetite for commitments to cheaper education, such as the federal government’s plan to deliver 180,000 free TAFE and vocational education places across Australia this year.


Similarly, government incentives for companies to hire and train apprentices and interns were seen as the best long-term solution by 50 per cent of respondents. It also ranked third as the quickest solution.

Of the 1,012 survey participants, Australians were overwhelmingly reluctant to address the shortage by sending jobs offshore (7 per cent). They were, however, receptive to allowing more skilled migrants and expanding visa programs and opportunities, although this was less popular among older age groups.

Allocations were made in the 2022–2023 federal budget to bring in more skilled workers, aligning with the apparent interest among survey respondents. For instance, the cap on the Migration Program Skill Stream was increased by 30,000 places.

These and similar reforms will be crucial in addressing shortages in a targeted, industry-specific manner. For reference, a recent HR Leader article explored the disproportionate need for skilled international workers in the Australian tech industry.

Behind offshoring, the least popular were lowering the minimum working age (10 per cent), more artificial intelligence and tech to replace human resources (10 per cent), and increasing the retirement age (13 per cent).

Key takeaways from the survey:

  1. Cheaper education is the most popular solution.
  2. Australians want government incentives for on-the-job training and education.
  3. Offshore outsourcing is exceedingly unpopular.
  4. AI/tech is not seen as a suitable replacement for human resources.

Understanding the drivers of the skills shortage will be crucial in crafting an effective response. According to Robert Half, the major contributors to the shortage are:

  1. An ageing workforce
  2. Lack of investment in training and education
  3. Immigration policies
  4. Rapid industry growth

“Many organisations are experiencing an expertise deficiency and competency crisis as they lack the quality and quantity of specialised talent necessary to achieve their business objectives. It’s a challenge that many organisations are facing today, and it’s not expected to go away anytime soon”, said Nicole Gorton, director at Robert Half.



Outsourcing is the process of contracting a third party from outside a business to carry out tasks or produce commodities that were previously done internally by the staff and workers of the organisation.

Nick Wilson

Nick Wilson

Nick Wilson is a journalist with HR Leader. With a background in environmental law and communications consultancy, Nick has a passion for language and fact-driven storytelling.