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A crisis provides opportunity, if you’re looking for it.

I’m revisiting a suggestion from three years ago that been given new life by a very helpful release from the recently constituted National Skills Commission (NSC) who, this week, released their first publication, A snapshot in time: Australia’s Labour Market and COVID-19 (“the report”)’

As the reports informs us:

The NSC is developing a range of information, resources and tools to support Australia’s economic recovery from COVID-19.

Over the coming year, the NSC will focus on determining skills shortages and surpluses, assessing the nature of labour market recovery, analysing structural shifts and identifying current and emerging skills needs.(page 7)

The quality of A snapshot in time: Australia’s Labour Market and COVID-19 gives me confidence that the NSC could be an important addition to the conversation about workforce planning, a topic that’s has been largely ignored by successive governments in this country.

I encourage you to put time aside to read all 55 pages of the report. There are plenty of photos and graphics so it’s not an onerous or time-consuming read.

I don’t need much prompting to return to one of my favourite topics which is covered in the report’s section 2.3 Core competencies — importance of a set of base transferable skills (pages 36 and 38). I applaud the NSC for the plain language they have used in this section (in the report generally, in fact).


Here’s how the report describes core competencies and their importance.

Core competencies are the basic building blocks common across most occupations and industries. They describe a set of non-specialist skills gained in early life and schooling and provide a base to further develop skills and specialties. Popular terms for these include ‘foundation skills’, ‘common skills’, ‘soft skills’, ‘core skills’ and ‘employability skills’.

Understanding the importance of core competencies in jobs is particularly important for young people, who are yet to develop other specialist skills required for different occupations. (page 36)

The report goes on:

As part of the Australian Skills Classification work, the NSC identified 10 core competencies required for every occupation in Australia.










The report quotes research as to how highly employers rate core competencies (higher than technical skills by a large majority of employers).

Then the hallelujah paragraph arrives.

Core competencies developed from previous jobs can also be applied to other jobs. To help inform this understanding, the Australian Skills Classification shows the importance of each core competency across different occupations in the Australian labour market. A rating scale for the importance of each of the core competencies is currently being refined and measure descriptions for the scale are being developed.

It’s been decades in the making but, finally, seems like this country is getting somewhere on this critically important workforce issue. We are on the cusp of creating a widely understood and accepted pathway for assessing the capability of a worker and helping employers in other sectors understand that capability as it, potentially, applies to a completely different job in a completely different industry.

As recruiters we have been fighting this battle for decades; the battle to have hiring managers, or internal recruitment or HR, consider the suitability of a candidate who doesn’t have the ‘experience’ that the employer insists is necessary.

As a current example, I suspect there are employers who have hired out-of-work flight attendants and found that despite zero ‘industry experience’ these flight attendants are proving to be highly effective workers due to their customer service skills, willingness to commit to shift work and high standards of personal presentation.

What’s the opportunity for agency recruiters ?

You can get ahead of the curve by acting now, if you haven’t already taken my advice from over three years ago, as detailed in my blog Accurately assessing soft skills: A huge opportunity for recruiters

There is a huge opportunity for recruiters of low-to-moderately skilled positions (very roughly, those that are under $80,000 p.a. salary) to methodically and objectively assess their candidates for the relevant core competencies as listed above (from the report, Table 5, page 36).

The NSC has provided a foundation, via this framework, for recruiters to immediately work with.

The actual work to be done by recruitment agency leaders is to investigate the most time-effective and cost-effective way to assess each candidate against the relevant core competencies, as they apply to the role types the candidate would match.

For example the core competency of Problem Solving would be assessed differently for warehouse roles compared to call centre roles and, for example, Team Work would be assessed differently for a Retail Assistant role compared to a Prison Officer.

I invite you to draw the dots from this NSC platform of core competencies to the benchmark required for a RFT response to any Federal, State or Local Government staffing panel.

It’s almost certain that at some future point, I suspect within five years, that one of the biggest differentiators a recruitment agency could demonstrate in submitting a government RFT is the efficacy of their candidate assessment processes against the NSC ten core competencies.

In the medium-to-long term I predict that such a demonstration will be non-negotiable.

How ready will your agency be?


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