Trends in the Northern Territory: how urban and remote areas now have different workforce challenges

For more than 10 years, the Northern Territory has faced a substantial skills crisis across most industries and regions.

Nowadays, we’re seeing a different picture.

The issues facing urban and remote businesses are markedly different.

What’s happened and how can we move forward to address both requirements?

Urban requirements

The distribution of jobs is now even more highly skewed towards major population areas in the NT. As a result, our main focus has shifted from bringing more skilled workers to these places (there will of course always be some exceptions), to upskilling the NT’s current workforce in urban locations.

As we know, technology is changing the world of work at great speed. Significant research needs to go into how industry and business is changing, where the workforce gaps are and how to ensure we have a skilled workforce to stay competitive and support economic prosperity across the NT.

Remote requirements

The disjunction between labour demand and supply continues to be an issue in remote areas of the Northern Territory.

We’ve narrowed this down to two main reasons.

The first is that the NT workforce is heavily influenced by major projects, and as a result, we are highly reliant on fly-in-fly out workers whose skills and experience follow them back across the border once a project is complete.

The second is that despite the successes of attracting skilled international migrants to remote areas through initiatives including the Skilled Regional visa and the Regional Sponsored Migration Scheme, there is a view (though no clear evidence) that migrants relocate to metropolitan areas once they fulfil visa sponsorship requirements.

What we do need to keep in mind, however, is that not all NT workforce needs can be met by the local workforce, therefore our fly-in-fly out culture and skilled migration initiatives are an economic imperative.

How can we address these requirements?

The Northern Territory Skilled Occupation Priority List (NTSOPL) is an absolutely essential tool at our disposal here.

The NTSOPL highlights the skilled occupations that are in high demand or considered to be critical for business and industry across the Northern Territory.

The intention of the list is to:

  • Inform business and industry workforce planning and development
  • Define priority areas in the allocation of training funding
  • Define priorities in the allocation of employer incentives for apprenticeships and trainees
  • Identify occupations that should be added to the skilled migration list

Our purpose at Industry Skills Advisory Council NT (ISACNT) is to increase business capacity and capability across the Northern Territory. To do this, we need your input on the NTSOPL. We encourage you to get in touch throughout the year and to contribute to our annual survey.

It is very important to provide feedback on behalf of your business or industry sector, as the allocation of training funds is assessed against industry need and skilled migration programs are determined by industry labour market requirements. Contact us to provide your insight.