Scientific Skills Shortage in the Australian Job Market

When the skills of employees available in the market don’t match the qualities that employers need, we speak about a skills gap. This is an apt description of the situation in the Australian job market in the science sector. For various reasons there are not enough qualified people to fill in vacancies.

At the same time, this sector will only be growing in the following years. It’s important to understand what isn’t working. This is the only way to improve its functioning and assure that companies can find the workers they need.

What does a scientific skills shortage mean in practice? We’ll examine the reasons for this situation, possible solutions and remedies available to employers.

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Science Skills Gap in Australia

The report “Readiness to meet the demand for skills: a study of five growth industries” indicates that the skills gap in the Australian science sector has been widening. The study points out some reasons of this situation:

  • Women don’t see themselves as students or workers in male-dominated industries. This gender gap decreases the number of students getting prepared for work in the life science sector.
  • 75% of the fastest growing occupations need STEM expertise. As a result, the demand for workers is constantly increasing.
  • STEM skills professionals need a growth mindset with workers getting training throughout their careers. Such upskilling should be supported by the workplace. This isn’t the industry’s reality today.
  • Fresh graduates who are about to join the market are often not job ready in the opinion of employers.
  • In certain parts of the science industry inexperienced graduates may struggle with finding their first job due to the lack of experience. This is particularly true for biotechnology.
  • Finding professionals at senior level specialising in biotechnology and pharmaceutics is particularly challenging.

These reasons make it clear why there’s a discrepancy between the available workforce and the workforce needed. In brief, not enough students are being trained to meet the demand. Once they graduate they often don’t have the skills that the employers consider necessary.
Experienced workers often don’t upskill, which may make their skills inadequate to the market needs. At the same time, the needs of the industry are growing.

Potential Solutions for Filling Science Jobs

There is no one solution to solve all the problems related to the scientific skills shortage. Many industries within life sciences have specific issues to deal with. However, there are general recommendations that the report mentions as helpful to closing the skills gap:

  • Cooperation between the industry and education providers to better prepare for the requirements of the industry
  • Improving education for entry-level workers
  • Planning for continuing professional development throughout careers of professionals
  • Finding specific solutions to tackle industry issues
  • Enhanced career advice mechanisms to make sectors more attractive to students in general and female students more specifically
  • Promoting labour mobility
  • Introducing strategies to make industry employment attractive to talent, including appealing to skilled migrants

It’s very important for the long-term goals of the country to address these issues. Solutions should be mainly aimed at training Australians. Even so, long term plans take a while to put in place and longer for the results to show. This is why an effective short-term solution is attracting skilled workers from other countries.

Many science jobs need replacements or new employees as soon as possible. Training new talent can’t help with that. A good solution is making sure that jobs offered are attractive to foreign skilled specialists who can’t be found locally.

Australian companies can use available visa programs to employ foreign nationals. Here are the two often used pathways to find people with scientific research skills and related expertise:

  • TSS/457 visas – this visa provides foreign employees with a permit for a temporary short stay to fill specific positions within the sectors of medical technology, biotechnology research and pharmaceutics.
  • The Global Talent Scheme – this program is designed for highly-skilled niche positions that can’t be filled through other visa programs such as the TSS/457 visa program mentioned above.

Insights for Employers

Employers seeking scientific thinking skills should keep in mind that employees are scarce. This means that it’s crucial to make jobs as attractive for them as possible. Businesses should look into top work perks employees want, salary expectations and work-life balance to offer competitive and enticing science jobs.


The report also points out that smaller businesses may struggle more with hiring industry specialists. Such enterprises should be vigilant and observe industry trends to stay ahead of the competition.    

The scientific skills shortage makes it particularly difficult to find scientific management skills. Due to particular demands of executive search recruitment, investing in services of recruitment specialists may take the stress out of hiring.

At CS Executive Group we know how to find the best people for the job. Don’t hesitate and contact us today to discuss the hiring needs of your business!

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