A review of the current skills shortages has identified a need to review our work practices. Two professions have been identified as having consistently high demand, Nursing and Bricklaying (Job Outlook 2019, Future Job Outlook 2009). Universities and training organisations to date have been unable to satisfy the demand for these professions. Both professions require specific skills and training, and both are labour intensive, which over time affect the individual’s ability to continue in their chosen profession. A possible solution to the ongoing shortages in these two professions can be summarised as follows:
A higher demand for this profession leads to higher wages, which has a flow on effect to the cost of building, as well as causing significant delays to the completion of building works. The work is classified as very labour intensive, with long term occupational health and safety issues showing as an average age at 38 (Job Outlook Career – Bricklayers 2019). Working long hours in all weather conditions has been shown to have adverse health outcomes, including fatigue, exhaustion and musculoskeletal strain injuries (Zhang L et al 2019). If not properly managed, these injuries can affect long term work prospects for the profession. Many workers complain they are no longer able to carry out bricklaying work and must look for alternative work, and these workers may live with long term chronic health conditions due to the nature of the work.
Managing the workload of these critical workers should be a priority for the Human Resource Manager. To allow sufficient time for the body to recover, alternative duties incorporated into the job description, such as training, estimating or administrative duties, or a shorter work-day could be put in place. These changes must be incorporated across the building industry, at the same time as increasing the number of apprentices to fill the hours taken in reorganising the workload of bricklayers. Over time this will mean more bricklayers will be trained, and enabling bricklayers to work longer, while minimising the number of workers leaving the industry with chronic health conditions. More must be done to encourage school leavers to consider an apprenticeship. In 2017 a study was undertaken by the Department of Jobs and Small Business which identified that 75% of employers found it difficult to find apprentices, and that 54% of employers had been approached by someone seeking an apprenticeship (Labour Market for Apprentices 2017).
The ongoing strain on the health care industry must be addressed in order to keep our Nurses in practice. The average age of Nurses is currently shown at 41 (Job Outlook – Career Nursing 2019). An industry-wide radical change must be implemented if we are to maintain our standard of health care. Nurses are put under significant strain leading to high turnover and absenteeism in the profession. Nurses are singled out in the top employing industries (Australian Jobs Snapshot 2019).
Nurses work in a profession that has become increasingly technical, requiring a high level of skills. Ongoing professional development must be put in place where Nurses are supported to develop their practice. The workplace culture needs to change to embrace new staff, be open to learning, and support new practices so nurses can learn the skills to carry out their profession. At one stage it was accepted that you trained as a Nurse in a hospital, and that was the end of your education. This is no longer the case. Highly skilled nursing training is carried out in universities, with the practical training being undertaken in the clinical setting. Management has identified that some of the nurses begin work and are poorly equipped to deal with the realities of the job, particularly the shift work, and the possibility of conflict with patients or their relatives.
In order to address the realities of the job, Nurses should have more time in placements, for example, in their first placement to work as an Assistant in Nursing, to receive some income and help to understand the job. For Nurses, the possibility of conflict and dangers in the workplace are real (Jones-Berry 2018). Nurse curriculum should include conflict resolution skills. Additionally, the shift co-ordinator should receive specialised training in how to deal with difficult patients or relatives, as well as co-workers. The workplace culture has a significant and ongoing effect on how employees carry out their duties. Where Nurses have a dysfunctional work culture, there are high levels of sick leave, double time and over time, placing more strain on a difficult job. In order to fix turnover and absenteeism, the work culture must be fixed.
Rostering tools are now available (although not universally used by Nurse Managers). Rostering (and re-rostering) is a complex, time-consuming exercise (Clark et al 2013). These predictive tools can identify the peak periods of demand in the workplace, and extra staff could be brought in to assist with these periods. Additionally, a typical roster can include all 3 shifts in one week in a multitude of combinations. For example, a Nurse may start their first day on an early shift, followed by two evening shifts, the fourth day could then be an early shift, followed by a night shift. The effect of shift work is universally accepted as causing adverse health outcomes (Rogers et al 2004). A more friendly roster could start the week on 2 early shifts, followed by 2 evening shifts, and finishing with 1 late shift, more gently easing your body clock into the changing conditions.
Clark A, Moule P, Topping A, & Serpell M, 2013, Rescheduling nursing shifts: scoping the challenge and examining the potential of mathematical model based tools Journal of Nursing Management https://doi-org.ezproxy.uws.edu.au/10.1111/jonm.12158
Department of Jobs and Small Business 2019, Australian Jobs Snapshot, viewed 26 August 2019, https://docs.employment.gov.au/system/files/doc/other/australianjobs2019snapshot.pdf
Department of Jobs and Small Business 2019, Future Outlook – Nursing, viewed 26 August 2019, https://joboutlook.gov.au/IndustrySpecific?search=Industry&Industry=Q
Department of Jobs and Small Business 2019, Job Outlook – Bricklayers, viewed 26 August 2019, https://www.joboutlook.gov.au/Career?keyword=bricklayers
Department of Jobs and Small Business 2019, Job Outlook – Nursing, viewed 26 August 2019, https://www.joboutlook.gov.au/Career?keyword=Nursing
Department of Jobs and Small Business 2019, Job Outlook – Career Bricklayers, viewed 26 August 2019, https://joboutlook.gov.au/Occupation?search=Career&code=3311).
Department of Jobs and Small Business 2019, Job Outlook – Career Nursing, viewed 26 August 2019, https://joboutlook.gov.au/Occupation?search=Career&code=254418
Department of Jobs and Small Business 2019, Labour Market Information Portal, viewed 26 August 2019, http://lmip.gov.au/default.aspx?LMIP/VacancyReport
Department of Jobs and Small Business 2017, Labour market – Apprentices, viewed 26 August 2019, https://docs.employment.gov.au/documents/labour-market-apprentices
Jones-Berry S, (2017), Lone workers need employers to act over dangers they face. Nursing Standard, 32(29), pp. 12-14. doi:10.7748/ns.32.29.12.s10.
Rogers A, Hwang W, Scott L, Aiken L & Dinges D (2004), The working hours of hospital staff nurses and patient safety. Health Affairs 23(4), pp 202-212.