The body established to advise the government on workforce training and skills shortages will be made permanent, and its remit broadened to include consultation with the states and territories and the ability to undertake targeted studies.

Jobs and Skills Australia (JSA) was established by the new Labor government in July last year in an interim capacity.

While a Director was appointed and the body commenced its work, the government consulted broadly on how it should operate going forward.

These consultations have now concluded, and the government has acted to make JSA permanent and significantly expand its scope.

The Jobs and Skills Australia Amendment Bill was introduced to the lower house on Wednesday by Minister for Skills and Training Brendan O’Connor.

As part of the changes, a Ministerial Advisory Board will be established to provide advice to JSA, with its members sourced from the states and territory governments, unions, employers and experts.

“Advice from the Ministerial Advisory Board will ensure JSA’s guidance to government on current and emerging workforce needs is informed by a wide range of views, insights and expertise,” O’Connor said in a statement.

“A lack of skilled workers is one of the biggest economic challenges currently facing Australia, and JSA will play a critical role addressing Australia’s current and emerging workforce skills and training needs.

“A permanently-established JSA will develop a work plan to help the Australian government improve skill development, employment opportunities and economic growth.”

Under the amendments, JSA’s Director will be renamed JSA Commissioner, and will have up to two JSA Deputy Commissioners.

JSA has received a number of new functions, including: providing advice on the demand and availability of workers in specific industries and occupations; to conduct studies focused on opportunities to improve employment; Vocational Education and Training (VET) and higher education outcomes for those who have historically experienced labour market disadvantage and exclusion; and for more strategic planning and investment in education and training.

The legislation also requires JSA to consult with the new Ministerial Advisory Board in developing its work plan.

A statutory review will also be conducted on JSA’s operations within two years of its establishment.

“According to the OECD, Australia has the second-highest labour supply shortage,” O’Connor said.

“If we are to be a productive nation we need expert advice on investing in developing the skills of our nation, which is what JSA will deliver.”

One of JSA’s first studies is into the capacity of the clean energy industry.

“Part of the clean energy study will look at current skills and their transferability to new occupations,” O’Connor said.

“It will look at where tweaks to skills are needed and where new skill development is necessary so that Australians are prepared for the jobs of the future.”

JSA is also conducting a national study on adult literacy, numeracy and digital literacy skills.

The 2022-23 federal budget included $12.9 million over three years for the permanent establishment of JSA.

The interim launch of JSA was one of the first acts of the new Labor government in Parliament in July last year, with the agency handed a broader remit than the previous National Skills Commission.

It’s a major part of the government’s efforts to tackle the significant skills gap and talent shortage Australia is currently facing.

The government has also committed to the Tech Council of Australia’s goal of having 1.2 million tech workers in Australia by 2030. But data from the Australian Computer Society (ACS) shows that this number of workers may be needed as early as 2027.