2017 – Talent Shortages – The ‘quickening’

2017 – Talent Shortages - The ‘quickening’ Canberra Market Update Employment HorizonOne Recruitment
Photo credit: Martin Ollman

HorizonOne Recruitment’s Canberra Employment Market Update

As predicted in our January bi-annual market update, 2017 has been a massive year for recruitment in the ACT region and beyond. The fact that this market update is being published almost 2 months later than originally planned is proof of that!  2016 saw the nation’s fastest job market growth here in the ACT region and although that growth has slowed somewhat, a sustained level of recruitment activity as well as increased demand from other states, has seen major talent shortages deepen across multiple industries.

A quick look at trends and activity for 2017 so far

National Trends

Some of the highlights nationally include:

  • Trend employment is increasing across most states with the highest annual increase since April 2013 seen in July 2017. (ABS, Labour Force Statistics, August 2017)
  • Unemployment remains steady of late at 5.6%.The ACT region is sitting below the national average at 4.5%.ABS, Labour Force Statistics, August 2017)
  • Australia’s largest markets NSW (up 7.1%) and Victoria (up 12.8%), are seeing a significant increase in jobs advertised year on year (SEEK, June 2017), with overall jobs advertised across Australia up 8%.
  • Similar trends are evidenced in the Department of Employments Research (July 2017) indicating a 5.2% increase in jobs advertised with annual trends looking strong

2017 – Talent Shortages - The ‘quickening’ Canberra Market Update Employment HorizonOne Recruitment Update Department of Employment Internet Vacancies Index

  • Mining, Resources and Energy employment is resurging with jobs advertised in that sector up 84% year on year to lead all sectors in terms of fastest growth. A promising sign for our economy, but this will likely present real challenges for talent short markets.
  • 43% of employees are considering a career change in the next 12 months (SEEK, March 2017) indicating increasing market fluidity

Canberra Region Trends

Some of the highlights of this period included:

  • Pace of employment market growth (advertised jobs) is declining slowly (down 10%) after 16 months of continuous growth which lead the way Australia wide (SEEK, July 2017).

A classic example of how Canberra’s talent scarcities lead Australia is within the ICT sector.  At a recent recruitment industry body event for APSCo Australia, some telling information was revealed including:

  • Average time to fill for an ICT vacancy in Canberra is 60 days compared with 25 days for the rest of the country. It takes more than twice as long!
  • Our region has the largest APSCo membership base in Australia, indicating the ICT recruitment market for Canberra is hugely disproportionate to the number of people or size of the economy. There are over 120 registered ICT recruitment companies in Canberra.

Employers report to HorizonOne that talent retention is becoming increasingly difficult in key markets. For example, consulting firms are experiencing increasing competition for talent as their ranks swell to record levels, requiring them to source staff from Sydney and Melbourne offices.

HorizonOne Business Activity

We are observing increasing talent shortages in nearly all our key markets.  As specialist recruiters that thrive on hard to fill vacancies and candidate short markets, HorizonOne is naturally getting busier and busier.  Some key trends include:

2017 – Talent Shortages - The ‘quickening’ Canberra Market Update Employment HorizonOne Recruitment info graphic recruitment activity

Areas of immediate Talent shortage in the ACT region

Sustained recruitment activity across most sectors in our region for over 2 years means that talent shortages are trending in critical markets such as ICT, Accounting and Finance, Consulting professionals, and specialist Government roles.

  • Executive Assistants and Executive Officers – A perennial candidates short market, things have reached extreme shortage levels particularly for security cleared Government EA’s
  • Procurement specialists – all levels, private and public sectors, outsourcing trends mean this shortage is ongoing
  • Government Internal and External Budgets Specialists (APS 5 – EL1)
  • Change Managers (organisational and technology) and Change Communications specialists
  • Consultants – across many specialisations, particularly Defence consulting and Project Managers
  • Assurance, risk and audit professionals – many employers are waiting up to 6 months to secure a high performer
  • ICT security (identity management), ICT CRM (e.g. Microsoft Dynamics) and Cloud integration specialists

Trends impacting the market – Growth areas

In January we predicted continuing growth in the following areas of increased focus by Government and industry:

  • Digital transformation
  • HR reform
  • Change management
  • Financial, Data, Statistical or Business Intelligence Analysts (Data Scientists)
  • Infrastructure and Property

These areas continue to shape the employment market now, however other trends we observe include:

Increasing market fluidity

Whilst difficult to measure, we are seeing increasing candidate movements driving recruitment activity across the board.

Some of this fluidity is created by large programs of work in the major Federal agencies.  There is a raft of large scale reform programs and these are driving demand for specialist skills particularly in the ICT, Property/Infrastructure, and People and Change space.  Some of these include:

  • DHS – Digital transformation, Cloud infrastructure, process automation
  • Immigration & PM&C – driving the new ‘Home Office’ plan + Immigration services reform
  • Defence – New Acquisitions (e.g. Fighter Jets & Submarines), ICT Infrastructure, GEMS, PFAS

Cloud, Cloud and more Cloud

The Federal Government are busy working out how best to migrate their ICT functions to the cloud.  Whilst some are ahead of the game, the trend to ‘automate and orchestrate’ government data, systems and process to the cloud will be ongoing for some time.  Accordingly, cloud focussed ICT companies are in a race to have their platforms listed as Australian Government certified for cloud.

Ongoing Procurement reform – Cap on ICT contracts at $100 million

Strengthening the rise of the middle tier consulting firms is the Federal Governments move away from enormous, long term contracts with the likes of Leidos (Lockheed Martin) and IBM.  The government is seeking to be more agile, to engage with smaller providers more often and avoid ‘lock in’ contracts that they believe reduce their value for money.  Great news for small and medium sized businesses offering innovative solutions and products.

Consulting firms growth

Consulting firms are the biggest they have ever been in our region.  Their growth shows no signs of relenting with the current Government preferring outsourcing over growing Government employee numbers.

Gender, Indigenous and other Equity groups

Government has firmed their commitment to proactively recruit from equity groups.  We are seeing a significant increase in demand for:

  • Women in ICT jobs
  • Indigenous recruits for all types of positions
  • Mature age recruitment, for contract, casual and part-time engagements


Whilst the citizenship fiasco may destabilise the Government somewhat, overall we interpret market trends to mean one thing.  The Canberra region is heading towards an employment market that reflects the heady years of 2005 – 2007 where surging demand meant talent shortages were forced through the roof.  Those employers not looking at proactive talent attraction and employer branding strategies may regret their actions by the end of 2018.