Ai Group’s Centre for Education and Training surveys a cross section of Australian businesses every two years to learn more about skills and workforce challenges across the economy.

This comprehensive, future-facing survey asks companies about the external and internal factors driving their skills and workforce needs now and into the future. It also asks where the skills challenges or shortages are, and the steps businesses plan to take to develop or acquire the skills and capabilities they consider they need to succeed.

The survey Listening to Australian businesses on workforce and skills 2024 had responses from 251 individual businesses, collectively employing a total of 291,232 FTE employees.

The report was published in a suite of four Research Insights. You can access these releases below:

The trends affecting businesses and their expected impact on the workforce

  • Businesses saw potential upside and jobs growth in customer demands for environmentally and socially sustainable practices, decarbonisation driven investment decisions and digital transformation.
  • Unsurprisingly, slowing economic growth was viewed by most businesses as likely to have a negative impact on head count.
  • Over a quarter of those who cited customer demands for environmentally sustainable practices as a key factor saw it as likely resulting in a net increase in headcount (26%) or as having a neutral effect (66%).
  • Decarbonisation driven investment decisions were also seen as a potential source of jobs growth. Among the businesses surveyed, digital transformation was seen as both a likely job creator (25%) and disruptor (33%) in the coming years.

Demand for technician and trade workers’ skills growing year on year

  • Demand for the skills associated with Technicians and Trades workers is always strong in Ai Group surveys, but it's also clear that this demand is growing steadily over time.
  • In 2020 49% of businesses surveyed reported an increased need for Technicians and Trades skills, rising to 69% in 2022 and then to 77% in 2024.
  • The proportion of businesses experiencing difficulty finding or training staff to meet this increased need is also trending up, from 39% of those surveyed in 2020 to a high of 79% in 2024

Many businesses yet to engage with AI

  • With the rise in availability and potential applications of generative AI in the workplace, this year’s survey sought to understand more about how businesses are engaging, or not engaging, with this technology.
  • 41% of the businesses we heard from reported ‘no engagement’ with AI.
  • Small and medium sized businesses were the most likely to report no engagement, with 27% of small businesses and 29% of medium businesses yet to engage.

The barriers holding businesses back from doing more with Artificial Intelligence

  • Few businesses cited regulatory barriers or risk as a reason for not engaging further with AI.
  • Many companies noted that at this point they simply don’t have the capacity to divert attention away from their day-to-day operations to investigate or implement AI in their business.
  • The lack of knowledge and skills about the AI opportunity was fairly evenly spread among small, medium and large businesses. Large businesses were as likely as small businesses to report skills gaps as a barrier to embracing AI – 22%, 21% and 22% respectively for small, medium and large businesses. Likewise, businesses of all sizes reported leaders’ lack of skills and capabilities to be barrier to doing more with AI.