Two in five Australian businesses are finding it difficult to recruit despite national job vacancies dropping to 219,000 (from 237,000 in 2010), research from Bankwest has revealed.


The second Bankwest Skills Shortage Survey, the latest addition in the Bankwest Financial Indicator Series, reports that businesses are being dealt a double blow as highly skilled candidates are harder to come by which in turn has lengthened recruitment timeframes.


Bankwest Business Chief Executive Ian Corfield said, “Australian businesses are clearly feeling the pinch of the skills shortage, with 41% reporting that it takes more than three months longer to recruit staff than it did a year ago.


“Businesses are seeing this as a significant issue and are therefore doing what they can to attract skilled performers, whether it’s improving benefits packages or recruiting workers from interstate and overseas.”


Across the country businesses are increasingly using tactics to attract the best talent, with nearly half (47.8%) increasing basic pay rates and a quarter (25%) offering additional financial incentives and benefits. Resources-rich Western Australia and Queensland are leading this trend with 63.4% and 55.8% respectively offering more lucrative salaries compared with the other states.


Businesses on the East Coast in particular are feeling the sting of the skills shortage more sharply than the rest of the country. More than two thirds (70.4%) of respondents in the Eastern states said that they are currently looking to hire or have hired staff in the last 12 months, with almost half (45.6%) reporting that they have had difficulty filling job vacancies during this period.


This compares to 60% of businesses on the West Coast looking to hire, with just under a third (32.6%) struggling to find candidates with the right skills.


This lack of available talent is having a direct negative impact on businesses. Most often existing employees have to work longer hours to make up for the shortfall in manpower, with two thirds (66.7%) of businesses reporting an increase in overtime.


The Bankwest Skills Shortage Survey also found that close to a quarter of businesses admit to error rates increasing and 33.7% are delivering late on products and services, with 22.6% being forced to turn down new work altogether due to lack of capacity.


“Businesses are in the difficult position of having to turn new work away – a tough decision to make given the uncertain economic environment,” said Mr Corfield.


Whilst a third (33.8%) of businesses nationwide are attracting workers from interstate to plug the skills gap, 41.1% of businesses in the mining states of Western Australia and Queensland are recruiting interstate and overseas workers to relieve pressure on their workforce.


The Bankwest Skills Shortage Survey anonymously surveys approximately 800 individuals in key business roles nationwide, to assess their perspective of the current state of skills shortages in their workplace. The Survey assesses various aspects of skills supply in Australia including ease of finding suitably skilled workers, as well as impacts this has on the way businesses operate.