Media release

Small business employers unaware of future skill shortage

30 December 2009

The latest business poll conducted by the Small Business Development Corporation (SBDC) indicates that small business operators have not experienced difficulties with workforce levels over the past twelve months and are not expecting difficulties in the next twelve months.

SBDC Acting Managing Director, Ms Jacky Finlayson, said the SBDC's 'flashpoll' of small and medium sized businesses shows that business operators had found ways of retaining staff during the global financial crisis, in the hope of being better staffed when business activity returned to normal.

"72 per cent of small business respondents said they'd had no trouble attracting and retaining staff over the past year, by providing flexible working conditions, offering financial bonuses and taking on mature aged workers," Ms Finlayson said.

Of most concern however, is that very few of the respondents indicated a belief that demand for "skills" was on the increase, or that demand would increase significantly next year.

"It appears that many small business operators are unaware of the likelihood that skills shortages will soon be a major issue for Western Australia once again," Ms Finlayson said.

"Some indicated that although they didn't expect to hire more staff,it was likely that they would increase the hours of their part time staff,if business demand increased."

With regard to skilled migration, the SBDC business poll showed that small business operators were prepared to employ skilled migrants and provide on-the-job training for local workers:

  • 42 per cent of respondents looking to employ in the next 12 months,were prepared to hire someone who was under qualified or inexperienced
  • 54 per cent of those looking to hire would consider employing a skilled migrant
  • 4 per cent would sponsor a migrant.

However, 31 per cent of respondents indicated they would not consider employing or sponsoring a migrant to fill a vacancy.

Ms Finlayson says it is of concern that a large number of respondents(73 per cent) did not expect to face any difficulties in recruiting new staff over the next 12 months.

"With all economic indicators signifying a return to high employment levels, competition will be strong for good quality workers. Despite this,only 35 per cent of respondents recognised that it may become more difficult toretain staff in the year ahead," Ms Finlayson said.

"With large infrastructure and resource projects ready to commence around the State, initiatives aimed at retaining good workers would be a wise priority for small business operators."

 In general, 46 per cent of respondents indicated they were planning to employ more staff, with anticipated requirements including:

  • professional staff (27 per cent)
  • administration staff (27 per cent)
  • sales staff (23 per cent)
  • trainees and apprentices (23 per cent)

Respondents to the SBDC business poll were predominantly located in the metropolitan area with small business operators in the Goldfields, Great Southern, Mid West, South West and Peel regions also represented. The top four sectors represented by respondents were:

  • retail trade (21 per cent);
  • property or business services (12 per cent);
  • accommodation, cafes and restaurants (7 per cent); and
  • manufacturing (7 per cent).

Our Ready Response Network survey of small and medium sized businesses was conducted on 17 December 2009 and is based on 80 responses.

Media contact: Di Graham (08) 9220 0218 or 0409 089 159.


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