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A lot of work to do ahead of Jobs and Skills Summit

24 August 2022 at 9:41 pm
David Crosbie
CCA will hold a charities and NFP roundtable with the assistant minister for charities, ahead of the federal government's Jobs and Skills Summit, writes CEO David Crosbie. 

David Crosbie | 24 August 2022 at 9:41 pm


A lot of work to do ahead of Jobs and Skills Summit
24 August 2022 at 9:41 pm

CCA will hold a charities and NFP roundtable with the assistant minister for charities, ahead of the federal government’s Jobs and Skills Summit, writes CEO David Crosbie. 

Staff skills, recruitment and retention are the most common areas of concern raised with Community Council for Australia (CCA) by charities over recent months. Charities are not alone. There is a national skills shortage impacting productivity in Australia across all sectors including charities and not for profits, business and government.  

The release of the Jobs and Skills Issues Paper last week provided a brief glimpse into how key government agencies, including Treasury, see the issues in this area.  The paper was part of a process that includes roundtable discussions and a major Jobs and Skills Summit to be held next week.

From my perspective, the Jobs and Skills Issues Paper was disappointing, partly because of the strong emphasis on business (very few mentions of government, charities and NFPs), and partly because of the failure to provide any vision for what the ideal Australian workforce and skills outcomes are. The framing of issues seemed overly focused on the economy and workers as individual economic units.

The opening sentence is: The Jobs and Skills Summit will bring together Australians, including unions, employers, civil society, and government, to discuss our shared economic challenges and propose both immediate and long-term solutions. I think the important issues in relation to jobs and skills in Australia are ultimately not just about the health of our economy or the size of our GDP, but also about the kind of lives we live and the communities we belong to.

The active engagement of charities in the Jobs and Skills Summit is important. If the charities sector in Australia was an industry group like mining or tourism, it would be the largest in the employment and skills area. Charities in Australia contribute over 8 per cent of GDP (turnover of $176 billion annually) and have the largest employment with over 1.38 million employees or 11 per cent of the Australian workforce. Charities also engage over 4 million volunteers.  

Despite this large footprint, charities are rarely included or factored into workforce planning, policies and initiatives.  And where charities are mentioned, it is usually in discussions about the caring economy – a limited view of how charities contribute across Australian communities.

Charities also often have the task of boosting employment, especially for those who are more likely to be on the fringes or excluded from active ongoing workforce participation.

We know that many charities are currently facing a multitude of issues in the employment and skills area including:

  • difficulty attracting and retaining skilled staff
  • rapid casualisation of the workforce and resultant issues associated with the quality of care and service provision
  • the complexity of operating in an overlapping awards system where Fair Work Australia tend to take a confrontational approach to those seeking to ensure all staff are paid appropriately
  • difficulty in managing workplace employee engagement and incentive programs particularly in terms of taxation and liabilities
  • outsourcing of core roles to employment agencies and for-profit companies,
  • the full cost of employing, training, and retaining staff is often not factored into funding agreements,
  • limited access to appropriate career development, training and support opportunities for charity staff.  

In 2010 the Productivity Commission recommended a workforce planning process for the sector, removal of cross-border barriers in regulating working with vulnerable people and other pre-employment credentialing, and consideration of the true costs of employing staff in all government contracting of NFPs, but these recommendations have generally not been implemented.  A government committed to boosting productivity could make a start by addressing these issues.  (The policy commitment of the new Albanese government to review these Productivity Commission recommendations is welcome.)  

A recent survey of charity workers in the UK found their average wage was 7 per cent below equivalent wages in the business or government sectors. How sustainable is this discrepancy?

CCA has strongly argued charities should be involved in the pre-summit roundtables and at the summit itself. We know several charities will be attending the main Jobs and Skills Summit and there has been some involvement from the broader charities and NFP sector in pre-summit roundtables, although engagement to date seems to be concentrated in areas like disability, aged care, and social services. CCA believes there are significant areas of concern to charities that have yet to be acknowledged or included as part of the issues paper or the summit agenda.

Thankfully, our concerns have been noted and we have now been offered an additional opportunity to have input into the Jobs and Skills Summit. Next Wednesday morning between 11.00am until 12.30pm, the Assistant Minister for Charities will attend a virtual pre-summit roundtable of charities to be hosted by CCA.  The outcomes of this roundtable will be communicated directly to the Treasurer by the Assistant Minister for Charities for consideration as part of the Jobs and Skills Summit. Claire Robbs, Deputy Chair of CCA and CEO of Life Without Barriers will host the roundtable and the assistant minister will provide his perspective.

This is an important opportunity for charities to raise their issues and make the case for changes that will benefit them and the communities they serve.

The quality of services provided by many charities is dependent on the skills, expertise, values and commitment of staff and volunteers to achieving their charitable mission.  In a highly competitive employment market, charities cannot take for granted that the staff they need will be available when and where they are needed.  

Providing opportunities for people to understand and experience the benefits of working or volunteering in a charity is becoming vitally important to building a sustainable workforce. Ensuring the experiences of our staff and volunteers are rewarding and valued has become critical to our future, and our capacity to effectively serve our communities. We have a lot of work to do.

Invitations to the virtual Jobs and Skills roundtable with Assistant Minister for Charities Andrew Leigh next Wednesday, 31 August (online) are available from 

David Crosbie  |  @DavidCrosbie2

David Crosbie is the CEO of the Community Council for Australia (CCA).

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