New challenges for Australian higher education sector
As the higher education market becomes increasingly competitive and consumer-driven, employers require new workforce skills to help them meet the challenges.

The latest data from SEEK Employment Trends shows job ads for the education and training industry were up by 3% year-on-year and the average advertised salary was $83,098. 

While most areas of the sector, such as early childhood teaching, childcare and outside school hours care, saw a year-on-year increase in SEEK job ads for the three-month period from June the August, tertiary teaching roles were out in front.  They increased by 28% while university management roles grew by 20% over the same period.

Demands in higher education

The higher education sector is a key contributor to the Australian economy. It directly employs more than 120,000 staff and supports the delivery of education to over one million students. Research from Deloitte shows the sector contributes around $25 billion to the Australian economy.

The sector also faces a number of challenges. Research from EY shows a quarter of its academic workforce is aged 55 and over, compared to 15% for the rest of the workforce in Australia. 

The EY research notes that as universities become more consumer-driven and competitive, they may also need to invest in greater commercial skills within both their administrative and academic workforce. 

“Universities operate in a global environment and need people who can navigate this complexity, including engagement with governments and industry nationally and internationally,” Bridgid Connors, Chief Human Resources Officer at Monash University.

Connors, says the higher education sector is instrumental in developing the workforce for tomorrow and that Monash University’s reputation helps attract talented candidates.

“Ranked in the top 100 universities in the world and a member of the Group of Eight, Monash University has an international profile and reach, distinguished by excellence in research,” she says.

“We have clear goals to be excellent in all that we do, foster international engagement and enterprise through collaboration with industry and provide an inclusive culture.”

Teaching the workforce of the future

There are more than 73,800 enrolled students at Monash and the university has seven locations across Australia, as well as a presence in Malaysia, China, India, Italy and South Africa. 

“Our student numbers have grown steadily by five per cent year-on-year and attracting the best talent to teach the workforce of the future is critical,” says Connors.

The university also employs 16,434 people across a wide range of roles. Connors explains that academic staff are attracted to the opportunity to be involved in innovative research and teaching that has an impact on communities locally and globally. 

“They can also work with talented staff nationally and internationally who are working towards common goals,” she says. 

“As an organisation, we are encouraged to seek out new ideas, challenge the status quo and act for the benefit of the whole community,” adds Connors. “This is part of the ‘bigger calling’ that comes with working at Monash.” 

Childcare on the rise

While the tertiary sector saw a year-on-year increase in job ads over the three-month period, the very beginning of the education spectrum also experienced growth on SEEK.

Michael Ilczynski, Managing Director for SEEK Australia and New Zealand, says childcare and outside school hours care workers are the most sought-after professionals across the education and training industry. 

“It’s no surprise that childcare professionals are in demand on SEEK,” he says. “Childcare is a booming sector across Australia. A recent review of the Australian Childcare industry by Colliers International in May 2016 revealed that 1.2 million children attend approximately 17,000 government-approved childcare services nationwide, and those numbers have grown substantially over the last five years, recording an annual growth rate of 4.6 per cent.”

Alex Jones, Regional Director for Hays Education, says more childcare centres are opening to meet demand. “It’s very common these days for both parents to be working, so demand for childcare and outside school hours care is high,” he says. “We also had a mini baby boom about six or seven years ago, and that is having an impact on demand.” 

Top marks for talent

Jones says that as demand for childcare and outside school hours care is high, employers may need to be a more creative in their value proposition.

“Employers also need to consider how they can retain their talent,” says Jones. “Childcare tends to be hard work and is not that well paid, so employers should think about offering career development opportunities, more than the minimal non-child-facing time to prepare for their classes, and entertainment vouchers. We’re also seeing some employers offering above the award rate as further incentives.”

Connors adds that a clear and visible culture is important for attracting and retaining talent in the tertiary sector.

“When joining Monash, you become part of an organisation with a welcoming community that nurtures curiosity, aims to be outstanding in all we do, acts with respect and generosity of spirit,” she says. 

The education and training industry faces a number of challenges – from tertiary levels through to childcare. Attracting and retaining the best talent will help maintain their top performance.