Workforce development

Workforce planning and development

Workforce planning and development is the process of determining skills and labour market needs in response to demographic, economic and labour market conditions and other challenges that ongoing change brings. It involves designing and delivering strategies, policies and actions that maximise opportunities for building, attracting and retaining a skilled and capable workforce.

The Department of Training and Workforce Development was established by the Western Australian Government in 2009 as the State’s lead agency for workforce planning and development. Our role is to work together with stakeholders across government, industry and the community to establish strategies and programs that build WA’s workforce to meet the State's economic and community needs by leading and coordinating workforce planning and development strategies, and driving a responsive and flexible training system.


The State priority occupation list

The worldwide COVID-19 pandemic resulted in volatility in the State’s labour market and changed employment conditions across most industries in Western Australia. The volatile nature of the labour market and changing employment conditions in Western Australia meant that the traditional SPOL was not possible in 2020. As such, the SPOL 2019 should be used, and interpreted, with extreme caution as it may no longer be reflective of current labour market conditions. The Department is working to develop a replacement SPOL for 2021.

It is important to note that the SPOL is designed and intended to be used for policy planning and research purposes, rather than as a career guidance tool.

The State priority occupation list (SPOL) is produced each year by the Department in consultation with key stakeholders, including the State’s industry training councils, to inform and guide workforce planning and development for Western Australia. It is a list of occupations rated according to their priority status for WA. The SPOL informs the WA State training plan, which guides the allocation of subsidised training programs into areas of prioritised need. It also informs WA workforce development planning and the Western Australian skilled migration occupation list (WASMOL).


What's on the SPOL?

Using the interactive SPOL format below, you can search over 700 occupations and see their current priority status. Please note that currently this may not be functional on all mobile devices.

To find out more about a listed occupation, highlight it in the list and select the ‘Print occupation profiles’ button. This will generate a PDF document with a description of the occupation, its priority index, and the written evidence received from stakeholders in relation to this occupation.

The SPOL is designed and intended to be used for policy planning and research purposes, rather than as a career guidance tool.


Understanding the SPOL

The SPOL summary paper outlines the process undertaken to create the list. It includes an explanation of the five categories that are used to assign priority ratings to a particular occupation based on its criticality, evidence of unmet demand, and any relevant non-market factors. The summary paper also provides an overview of Western Australia’s labour market by occupation groups, and includes the full SPOL listing of occupations.

View the SPOL summary paper (August 2019)


The SPOL changes paper details the changes stemming from the review of the SPOL methdology conducted throughout 2018 and 2019. The review has resulted in a broader evidence base, and allowed for a more flexible framework for future policy development. Though not a full methodology paper for 2019, this document provides an outline of the changes undertaken between SPOL 2018 and 2019, including the concepts and reasoning behind them.

View the SPOL changes paper (August 2019)


For more information about the process and the data sources used to create the SPOL each year, please refer to the SPOL scope, methodology and sources paper. This paper also provides information about the statistical methodologies and consultations with industry and training councils that form part of the SPOL development process each year. 

Frequently asked questions

The following list of frequently asked questions provides more information about the SPOL.

Why do we need a SPOL?

The SPOL is an important tool to inform decisions about how funding for training and workforce development programs is allocated. The SPOL helps to ensure that we are investing in the development of skills and knowledge that match the occupations we need now and into the future.

How is the ‘priority’ of an occupation decided?

To be considered for priority status, one or more of the following conditions must be met:

  • the occupation must be considered principle to the needs of the State;
  • there is significant evidence of unmet demand; that is, where employers have faced difficulties in filling vacancies (also known as ‘skill shortages’); or
  • there are other, non-market factors impacting on the occupation, such as changes in regulations and licensing arrangements.
 Why hasn't the SPOL been updated for 2020?
Due to the large economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, the inputs used to determine previous iterations of the SPOL were not considered to be reflective of the volatile nature of the labour market and changing employment conditions currently being experienced in Western Australia.
When will the SPOL next be updated?
The Department is working to create a replacement for 2021.
How is the SPOL produced?

The Department conducts extensive economic and labour market research and analysis at an industry and occupational level to determine the State's priority occupations. A key input to the SPOL is the Occupational priority index (OPI), which represents the output of the Department’s statistical analysis at a detailed occupational level in respect to the Western Australian labour market. The OPI actually refers to two distinct indices, ‘market’ and ‘structural’, with separate data sources and inputs for both.

The main State-based indicators used to determine the market OPI are as follows.

  • Employment size – Based on the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) 2016 Census.
  • Future labour demand or supply (FLDOS) and past labour demand or supply (PLDOS) –  Both are based on a number of data sources and provide an indication as to whether labour supply is broadly meeting/expected to meet demand.
  • Average weekly wages – Based on employee earnings and hours data for full time adult employees (ABS Catalogue Number 6306.0).
  • Job openings – Based on Monash University’s Centre for the Economics of Education and Training (CEET) data, these are forecasts of emerging vacancies (whether filled or not) for each occupational group.

The main State-based indicators used to determine the structural OPI are mostly based on the ABS Census (except for lead time) and can be described as follows.

  • Retirement exposure indicator – Highlights occupations with a significant proportion of their existing workforce close to, or above, retirement age.
  • Change in median age – Measures the growth in median age for each occupation between 2011 and 2016.
  • Lead time – Based on the Australia New Zealand Statistical Classification of Occupations (ANZSCO) standard definition of lead times for each detailed occupation.
  • Industry portability – Measures the spread of employment of each occupation across major industry groups as defined by the Australia and New Zealand Standard Industrial Classification (ANZSIC).
  • Occupation qualification usage – Measures the proportion of an occupation’s workforce with formal qualifications as of the latest census.

This statistical analysis is supplemented by intelligence provided by industry, facilitated through the State Training Board's network of industry training councils. These bodies provide strategic advice on occupations that are considered to be experiencing or are expecting to be experiencing a degree of disruption in their labour market, based on research and consultation with their industry sectors.

The complete list is then validated and assessed by the Department, in consultation with each industry training council, in order to produce the final SPOL each year.

What do the priority ratings on the SPOL mean?

An occupation listed on the SPOL may be assigned to one of five separate categories that align with issues the occupation faces.

  • State priority 1 – The highest priority occupation where structural and market-driven issues are impacting at the State level.
  • State priority 2 – The second-highest level of priority, where structural and/or market-driven issues are impacting at the State level.
  • State priority 3 – The third tier of priority representing either occupations of pending concern, and/or where supply is considered essential for the State's economy.
  • Other identified occupations – Refers to occupations where there is inconsistent or conflicting evidence relating to structural or market driven issues. These occupations are closely monitored by the Department. 
  • Not identified as a priority – Refers to occupations with no evidence for inclusion on the priority list.

How are occupations chosen for inclusion on the SPOL?

The following criteria are applied to determine whether an occupation should be considered for the SPOL.

Valid data

There must be an adequate level of quality information about the occupation in order to assess and validate the needs of the occupation. In practice, this means that the occupation must have a valid Australian and New Zealand Standard Classification of Occupation (ANZSCO) code from the Australian Bureau of Statistics at the six-digit level.

High levels of skill

The occupation must have specialised skills that require extended (post-school) learning and preparation time. Occupations that do not require post-school qualifications prior to entry, such as labourers, process workers and kitchen hands, are excluded from the list of eligible occupations.

Clear and open pathways

Because the SPOL is used to determine funding priorities for training in WA, the occupation should have clear education and/or training pathways or qualifications that can be obtained within Australia, and where the skills learnt can be matched to the requirements of the occupation. Where an occupation does not have any educational or vocational education and training qualifications associated with it, it is excluded from the eligibility list. Examples of these include judges, members of Parliament.

The occupation must also operate in the normal labour market; that is, there is a regular recruitment process to fill vacancies and many employers available. Occupations that are highly regulated, or those with tightly controlled recruitment practices with specialist skills, are not eligible for inclusion. Examples of these include defence force personnel, police officers and air traffic controllers.

Occupational impact

An occupation will be considered if any disruption in its supply would result in significant impacts more broadly across the industry or the State economy. These impacts may manifest themselves in higher unemployment and/or slower growth due to supply bottlenecks.


Skilled migration

In Australia, the Commonwealth Government's Department of Home Affairs has responsibility for immigration policy. It also makes the final determinations on all applications for humanitarian, business and skilled visas (see for more information). The Commonwealth Government allows each Australian state and territory to nominate skilled migrants under a broad range of occupations, to meet their own local workforce needs.

The State nominated migration program

The Western Australian Government places Western Australians first when it comes to securing jobs in the State. Accordingly, the State Government's first workforce development priority is to train and prepare Western Australians for the workforce.

WA’s State nominated migration program therefore targets those skilled jobs that genuinely require overseas workers, where local workers cannot be sourced.

The graduate stream acts to incentivise international students to choose Western Australia as their study destination by providing a pathway to remain or contribute to our economy and lifestyle.

The program works in conjunction with other workforce development mechanisms to help ensure employers have access to the skills they need.

For information on living and working in Western Australia, or how to apply for nomination by the State Government for a skilled nominated visa under WA's State nominated migration programplease visit the Department's Migration portal


Outlook and assessment for WA

Western Australia is a great place to live and work. Our enviable climate, great lifestyle and culturally diverse community provide a wealth of opportunities. Economically, our advantages include a highly skilled workforce, varied regions, a strong resources sector and a time zone shared with the fastest growing countries in the world. Our State is well positioned to take advantage of global trends that are shaping the world’s economy and labour markets. 

The $5.5 billion WA Recovery Plan outlines how Western Australia will bounce back from the impacts of COVID-19 to reposition itself as a thriving and innovative place in which to live, work, visit and do business. The plan has 21 priority streams, each underpinned by direct commitments, including investment, resourcing and programs of work. The scope is comprehensive, ranging from new technologies, local manufacturing and training to tourism, patient care and the environment.The plan will create jobs and training opportunities for future industries, help restore business and consumer confidence, and rebuild the economy.  

The Department of Training and Workforce Development is supporting the WA Recovery Plan through various skilling initiatives. 

Labour market outlook

There are substantial risks and inherent uncertainties associated with producing forecasts for an economy and there will always be differences between the forecasts of key aggregates and the final audited results. 
This is exacerbated more with the unprecedented impact on the global, national and State economies and the level of uncertainty associated with the future trajectory of the COVID-19 pandemic. This includes the risk of a second outbreak of the pandemic in Western Australia.

The outbreak of COVID-19 halted momentum that was building in the Western Australian economy prior to the pandemic. While there has been uncertainty around COVID recovery, and despite initial sharp falls in activity, Western Australia’s economy is recovering at a faster rate than other States and the national economy. This reflects better health outcomes, government assistance, an industry structure geared towards mining, and a commodity-intensive stimulus in China, which has underpinned strong export volumes and prices (particularly for iron ore).

Some industries and cohorts are likely to recover much faster than others, while the unwinding of dedicated stimulus measures may also impact the rate of improvement. 

It is noted that in a recovery period, employers may also increase the hours of existing workers (who have had their hours cut due to COVID-19 downturn) rather than recruit new workers, hence limiting the number of opportunities for new entrants into the labour market. For this reason, early career pathways and skilling up the State’s young people continues to be a high priority, as this represents a critical stage in the beginnings of any person’s career development and future work engagement. Further to this current and emerging innovation and technology advances are changing the nature of work and impacting the demand for skills.

Given the degrees of uncertainty around the State’s labour market outlook and the dynamics described above, the importance of retaining a flexible approach to the planning and purchasing of training delivery is imperative.


Industry information and intelligence

The Department sources information on skills supply and demand, workforce development issues, current emerging skills shortages and other related intelligence from a wide range of sources. This includes liaison with peak industry bodies, businesses, non-government organisations and many other stakeholders. In particular, Western Australia has industry training advisory arrangements in place with eight training councils, each covering a particular industry sector of the State’s economy.

Industry training councils

ITCs represent specific industry areas and play a vital leadership role in WA’s workforce planning and development, working closely with key stakeholders including peak employer, employee and industry organisations. In addition to advising the State Training Board and the Department of Training and Workforce Development about attracting, retaining and skilling a capable and sustainable workforce, the ITCs provide:

  • high level, strategic information and advice that informs the State Training Board on the training needs and priorities of industry in Western Australia;
  • market intelligence on skills supply and demand, in particular current or emerging skills shortages; and
  • recommendations for training strategies that support industry’s skills development needs.

ITCs also have a central role in the development of quality vocational and education training curriculum to ensure that the skills and knowledge gained through training is aligned with current industry competencies and requirements. A full list of WA ITCs is available on the WA State Training Board website.


Developing your workforce

A smart organisation knows that a focus on its people is just as important as a focus on finance or any other aspect of the business. Putting together a comprehensive workforce development plan will help you attract, develop and retain a skilled workforce that can take your business forward into its next level of success.

By demonstrating a commitment to take on apprentices, trainees, Aboriginal people and young people, businesses can also increase their likelihood of winning work on government projects under the Western Australian Jobs Act 2017. There are opportunities for businesses of all sizes to participate in Western Australian Government tenders.

The Western Australian Government provides a range of skilling solutions to help your workers to learn, adapt and grow with your business enabling you to overcome challenges and pursue new opportunities. The State’s education and training systems are key to addressing skill needs for your business and helping you to meet your employment and training obligations. These inputs include:

  • funding apprenticeships and traineeships;
  • short courses (skill sets);
  • significant reduction in course fees at TAFE and private training providers;
  • employer incentives;
  • out-of-contract-register to help connect apprentices to new employers;
  • Job Ready program that provides training pathways to employment and support industry attraction;
  • labour market analysis and workforce development planning;
  • Group training organisations; and
  • jobs and careers assistance. 

By understanding the skills and capabilities required  in a diversified and constantly changing economy, individuals and businesses can equip themselves for future employment opportunities more effectively.

Whatever your requirements, a range of support services and information and resources are available to assist you with your workforce planning and development. Jobs and Skills Centres can provide you with support and assistance with planning and developing your workforce, and a range of useful resources and information is available on the Jobs and Skills WA website.

favicon-32x32.png Visit the Jobs and Skills WA website


Support and information services

The Department offers a range of specialist services that can assist you with advice, resources and information to guide and support your workforce development planning.

The following services are all free of charge and can be accessed throughout Western Australia.


Resources for employers

Developing and implementing workforce planning and workforce development processes in the workplace and having a ‘workforce action plan’ are essential components of healthy business practice.

A range of useful resources, information and tools have been developed by the Department of Training and Workforce Development in partnership with the Chamber of Commerce and Industry and other WA industry leaders. Available on the Jobs and Skills WA website, they provide small and medium businesses with a ‘one-stop’ gateway to find useful information, templates, links and resources that can help you to better plan, attract, develop and retain a skilled workforce.

Visit the Jobs and Skills WA website


Jobs and Skills Centres

Jobs and Skills Centres

Jobs and Skills Centres are one-stop shops for careers, training and employment advice and assistance. Services are free, and accessible to all members of the community.  Five centres opened on 16 April 2018, located on metropolitan WA TAFE campuses, with regional centres opening through 2018–19. Each of the centres is staffed by people who can provide free professional and practical advice on training and employment opportunities including careers advice, apprenticeship and training information. Support services for employers and business, as well as specialist services for Aboriginal people, ex-offenders and people from a culturally or linguistically diverse background are also available.

The centres also provide an online jobs board, to connect jobseekers with employment opportunities and to help employers attract and recruit employees.

Find out more on the Jobs and Skills WA website


Small Business Development Corporation

The Small Business Development Corporation was established by the State Government to encourage, promote, facilitate and assist the establishment, growth and development of small business in Western Australia. It offers a comprehensive range of services to the small business sector, including business skills workshops and support for recruitment and workforce development, as well as a range of guides and tools.

You’ll find comprehensive information on topics such as starting your business, employing staff and managing disputes, as well as useful statistics relating to small business in WA, on the SBDC website.

Page last updated January 22, 2021