The availability of skilled workers will be the biggest barrier to WA companies over the next 12 months, a Joondalup forum heard last week.
However, for businesses in Joondalup, the risk will be less than in the rest of the state.
Aaron Morey, the chief economist for the Chamber of Commerce and Industry, WA, was a guest speaker at the City of Joondalup’s sold-out business forum. He outlined and compared the top five barriers to business for the coming year.
While rising operating costs and supply chain disruptions will be a little more of a concern in the town of Joondalup compared to the rest of WA, the availability of skilled labor and an uncontrolled COVID-19 outbreak was significantly less.
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“That tells me that Joondalup companies are well-positioned to handle some of these challenges,” said Mr. Morey.
International trade tensions are also a bigger concern in the city than the rest of the state, with Mr. Morey stressing the importance of WA’s strong relations, particularly with China.
His comments followed a presentation by Prime Minister Mark McGowan, who highlighted that while WA had the lowest unemployment rate of 2.9 percent, it also had the highest employment rate of 70 percent.
“That means we’re under pressure from not enough people to fill our roles,” Mr. McGowan said.
“People work seven days or have to close when they don’t want to, so we’re doing a lot to attract workers to WA.”
Camera Icon Joondalup chief executive James Pearson, Prime Minister Mark McGowan, Mayor Albert Jacob, and CCI WA chief economist Aaron Morey. Credit: Stewart Allen
Mr. McGowan, who said he was “about to go overseas to Ireland and Britain to try and arouse some interest”, said the state was investing heavily in attracting a skilled workforce in infrastructure, health, manufacturing, tourism, defense, and “even call centers”.
“Weactually programm to attract call centers,” he said. “They employ many people, and they’ve tried to get out of some of those other countries.”
Bringing international students back to WA — an industry that Mr. McGowan acknowledged has been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic, and which, according to Joondalup chief executive James Pearson, has impacted local cafes and businesses around the city’s learning area — is also an important investment area.
Mr. McGowan said initiatives included announcing David Templeman as minister for international education in December and allocating $41 million in the recent state budget to attract international students directly.
He said discussions in the sector had fueled investment in advertising, increased the commission for international student agents and delegation visits, and that the state was making “great efforts” to maintain good relations with China – “the largest international student market in the world” – and India.
“I have also gone to the Commonwealth to expand the list of skilled migration occupations so people can work in different industries,” said M.r McGowan.
“Many students here want something to cover the costs, and that’s a job.”
Mr. Morey also discussed the importance of attracting foreign workers and for the new federal government to increase the list of skilled migration occupations and make the process easier to navigate.
“We did our national survey last year, and WA relies, more than any other state, on that relocation of overseas workers,” he said.
“Yes, we can attract some positions in the mining sector through FIFO, but to flip the switch, we need access to those overseas workers, which brings all kinds of other benefits in terms of a diverse social community.”
The Prime Minister will return to the Northern Suburbs on June 22 for another sold-out business breakfast as part of the Wanneroo Business Association’s Hot Seat Series.