The government will replace the National Skills Needs List (NSNL) after a review of the program.

Since 2007, the NSNL has determined which jobs are eligible for payments under the Incentives for Australian Apprenticeships (IAA) program.

Senator Michaelia Cash announced the modernisation project on Thursday.

“The review will ensure skills shortages are identified using a forward-looking, up-to-date methodology and that apprenticeship incentives are targeted at addressing critical skills shortages in the Australian economy,” Minister Cash said.

“Developing a robust and enduring approach to determining how apprenticeship incentives address skills shortages is part of the Morrison Government’s commitment to maintaining a strong vocational education and training sector that supports employers’ needs and builds a skilled workforce.”

Currently, to be added to the NSNL, an occupation must meet a set of criteria including:

  • That it is classified under Major Group 3 Technicians and Trades Workers of the Australia and New Zealand standard classification of occupations
  • At least 1,500 people are employed in the occupation
  • And that it is assessed as being in skills shortage for three of the past five years

The current list, that includes trades like ‘landscape gardener’, ‘lift mechanic’, and ‘picture framer’ has few IT jobs, despite persistent sector shortages.

And because the NSNL has not been updated since 2011, only 22 of the 65 jobs on it meet the selection criteria.

The review Issues Paper outlines how the current NSNL methodology is insufficient for its scope.

“While the employment and research thresholds provide a measure of rigor in determining the existence of skills shortages, the outcome may be that critical skills shortages in small or niche occupations are allowed to persist,” it said.

Earlier this month, the government expanded its Global Talent visa scheme, allowing businesses to look overseas for highly skilled workers in niche occupations.

The review has begun its consultation phase and Cash encouraged community response to the published issue paper.

“I urge stakeholders with an interest in building a high-quality Australian workforce with the skills that employers need to contribute to this important review,” she said.

Submissions to the review close on September 27.