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Local Government

Overview

This page provides information and data on the Local Government sector, which is one component of the Government industry, and covers the operation and service provision of local governing entities in Australia.

Local Government nationally employs over 187,500 people. As an employer, Local Government requires a diverse workforce that encompasses a wide range of occupations, requiring a very broad range of skills amongst its personnel. The Local Government sector is a service provider with some sections operating along commercial business lines. Local Government organisation structures vary, however, all consist of elected representatives and council staff.

Currently, the sector is comprised of 537 local governments across Australia, which vary in geographic area, population and demographic base. All have an important role in providing leadership in community, economic and infrastructure development and a range of services and social functions. Common general functions include:

  • Infrastructure and property services, including local roads, bridges, footpaths, drainage, waste collection and management
  • Provision of recreation facilities, such as parks, sports fields and stadiums, golf courses, swimming pools, sports centres, halls, camping grounds and caravan parks
  • Health services, such as water and food inspection, immunisation services, toilet facilities, noise control and animal control
  • Community services, such as child care, aged care and accommodation, community care and welfare services
  • Building services, including inspections, licensing, certification and enforcement
  • Planning and development approval
  • Administration of facilities such as cemeteries, parking facilities and street parking
  • Cultural facilities and services, such as libraries, art galleries and museums.

Nationally recognised training for the Local Government sector is delivered under the LGA – Local Government Training Package.

Information sourced from the most recently available Skills Forecast, the Local Government IRC’s 2019 Skills Forecast.

All data sources are available at the end of the page.

IRC and Skills Forecasts

The Local Government IRC was not required to submit an annual update to their 2019 Skills Forecast during 2020. As such, the version published in 2019 remains the most recently published Skills Forecast for this industry.

Local Government IRC’s

Employment trends

Please note: any employment projections outlined below were calculated by the Australian Bureau of Statistics prior to COVID-19.

Employment snapshot

Employment levels in the Local Government Administration industry, a good indicator of the employment in the Local Government sector as a whole, increased between 2000 and 2020. This increase was steeper between 2000 and 2007 (including a particularly large rise between 2006 and 2007), with a more modest increase between 2010 and 2020. Employment is projected to increase from 136,100 in 2020 to 147,000 by 2024.

Training trends

Training snapshot

Program enrolments in Local Government-related qualifications have fluctuated between 2015 and 2019. Enrolments peaked in 2016 at approximately 1,050 and in 2019 there were approximately 940 enrolments. Program completions declined from the peak of almost 360 in 2015 to around 230 in 2018 before rising slightly to roughly 280 in 2019.

Between 2015 and 2019 the majority of Local Government-related subjects were delivered as part of a nationally recognised program. In 2019, less than 4 per cent of Local Government-related subjects were not delivered as part of a nationally recognised program.

Program enrolments were most common at the certificate IV and diploma or higher levels in 2019, while few enrolments were seen at the certificate I or II levels. A large number of enrolments in Local Government-related qualifications were in the area of regulatory services, followed by general local government and administration, and operational works. The most common intended occupations for Local Government-related qualifications were Inspectors and Regulatory Officers and Program or Project Administrator.

In 2019, 62% of Local Government-related qualifications were delivered by private training providers. This trend was strongly the case for all qualifications other than those in the area of regulatory services, where TAFE institutes delivered the majority of qualifications (84%). Subjects in Local Government-related qualifications were funded through Commonwealth and state funding (56%) and domestic fee for service (44%).

New South Wales had the single highest proportion of students enrolled in Local Government-related qualifications in 2019, with 29%, followed by Western Australia with 26% and Queensland with 20%. Differences in enrolments by state may be in part due to the different size and roles of Local Government in different areas.

Almost a third of all training was delivered in New South Wales (31%), followed by Western Australia (26%) and Queensland (19%).

Apprentice and trainee commencements and completions fell overall between 2010 and 2019. Commencements peaked in 2012 at roughly 250 while completions peaked in 2010 at around 270. There were approximately 70 commencements and around 50 completions in 2019. The most common intended occupation for apprentices and trainees in this sector in 2019 was Earthmoving Plant Operators. The Northern Territory reported the largest proportion of apprentices and trainees, with 44%, followed by New South Wales with 38%.

For more data specific to your occupation, industry or training package, visit NCVER’s VET Students by Industry. If you are prompted to log in, select cancel and you will continue to be directed to the program.

For more data specific to your region visit NCVER’s Atlas of Total VET.

If you are interested in extracting NCVER data to construct tables with data relevant to you, sign up for a VOCSTATS account.

Industry insights

Industry insights on skills needs

The Local Government IRC’s 2019 Skills Forecast suggests the top priority skills for the Local Government sector are all soft skills, ranging from teamwork and communication through to flexibility and emotional intelligence. The top four generic skills also focus on soft skills. Technology is rated as the fifth most important generic skill for the sector.

According to the above Skills Forecast, over half of the Local Government sector workforce was aged over 45 in 2016. There are a number of implications of an ageing workforce that Local Government will need to consider, including:

  • Need for career transition and succession planning management
  • Alter methods to source/attract new staff from further afield
  • People staying in positions longer – no capacity to bring on young trainees
  • Key employees retiring without employees trained to backfill
  • Loss of key corporate knowledge/no knowledge exchange
  • High turnover and loss of skill/skill gap and shortages.

Efforts to retain the ageing workforce will be important to balance the lack of new entrants to the sector and establish valuable mentoring and training opportunities for new graduates from older and experienced workers.

The Local Government IRC’s 2019 Skills Forecast also reveals that similar to other sectors, Local Government is experiencing significant skills shortages. Some reasons for the current skill shortages include:

  • Inability to compete with the private sector on remuneration
  • Lack of suitably qualified and experienced applicants
  • High demand across the labour market for specific occupations
  • Shortage of skilled locals – limited talent pool
  • Remoteness – hard to recruit skilled and experienced staff
  • Lack of opportunity for career progression, particularly in small councils
  • Regional/remote location – lack of facilities/housing.

Local Government services are often subject to regulatory and compliance frameworks specific to an area of service (e.g. rates, urban planning, land management, governance, procurement etc.) and knowledge and skills specific to these framework functions are often missing from technical qualifications.

Lack of access to suitable training and development programs is a key driver behind the skills shortages and gaps reported across the sector. Key concerns regarding training offers include:

  • Training is not offered locally, and often, not offered in the specific state or territory
  • Training is not flexible and not offered in multi-modal channels, including online or with remote access
  • Training is not specific to local government needs.

In the Australian Local Government Association (ALGA) report Local Government Workforce and Future Skills Report Australia, a significant proportion of surveyed local governments identified the need to improve their workforce in all 10 of the soft skills listed below:

  • Creativity and entrepreneurial skills
  • Cross cultural awareness
  • Social intelligence
  • Novel and adaptive thinking
  • New media literacy (e.g. social networking)
  • Ability to understand concepts across multiple disciplines
  • Critical thinking, analysis, and problem solving
  • Design mind-set
  • Ability to discriminate and filter information for importance
  • Ability to work productively, drive engagement, and demonstrate presence as a member of a virtual team.

In order to address these emerging skills gaps, local governments will be mainly looking to upskill existing staff. To a lesser extent they will look to use shared service arrangements to address these gaps, particularly in the digital skills area.

The ALGA also produced a detailed ‘Local Government Workforce and Future Skills Report’ for New South Wales, Northern Territory, Tasmania, Victoria and Western Australia.

The South Australian Training and Skills Commission (TASC) report Local Government Workforce Insights, examines the training and skills needs of the state's current and future Local Government workforce. Key findings include:

  • Almost half of South Australia's 68 local councils are experiencing skills shortages now and expect to continue experiencing shortages in the future.
  • Generally, councils need to improve their workforce forecasting and analysis to determine what skills or training is needed.
  • Investment in training the Local Government workforce is not high, with many councils reporting that they prefer to hire people with the qualifications and experience considered necessary rather than train less experienced staff for the role.
  • Regional and remote councils are a major employer for residents and provide a pipeline for local talent to be developed in many occupations, however the movement of young people out of regions and into cities provides a challenge to recruitment.
  • Regional and remote councils have unmet training needs for a number of reasons including courses not being offered locally and the costs associated with travelling to Adelaide for training.
  • Digital technology can improve council services but the expertise to manage it must be developed to support its adoption. Budgetary constraints hinder capacity to train staff and improve skills linked to advances in technology and digital disruption.
  • Councils are not well-positioned for new and emerging soft skills. Councils are least well-positioned for novel and adaptive thinking, and design mind-set.
  • With as many as 195 occupations within their areas of responsibility and management, local councils are ideally placed to act as an incubator for apprenticeships and traineeships.

For further analysis of skills needs and workforce demand see the Government cluster page.

Links and resources

Below is a list of industry-relevant research, organisations and associations. Hyperlinks have been included where available.

Relevant research

Customer and Technology Transformation in Local Government – KPMG and Public Sector Network

Local Government Workforce and Future Skills Report Australia – Australian Local Government Association (ALGA)

Local Government Workforce and Future Skills Report New South Wales – Australian Local Government Association (ALGA)

Local Government Workforce and Future Skills Report Northern Territory – Australian Local Government Association (ALGA)

Local Government Workforce and Future Skills Report Tasmania – Australian Local Government Association (ALGA)

Local Government Workforce and Future Skills Report Victoria – Australian Local Government Association (ALGA)

Local Government Workforce and Future Skills Report Western Australia – Australian Local Government Association (ALGA)

Local Government Workforce Insights – South Australian Training and Skills Commission (TASC)

 

Industry associations and advisory bodies

Australian Local Government Association (ALGA)

Australian Public Service Commission (APSC)

Environmental Health Australia (EHA)

Institute of Public Works Engineering Australasia (IPWEA)

Local Government Association of Queensland (LGAQ)

Local Government Association of South Australia

Local Government Association of the Northern Territory (LGANT)

Local Government Association Tasmania (LGAT)

Local Government New South Wales (LGNSW)

Local Government Professionals Australia

Municipal Association of Victoria (MAV)

Planning Institute of Australia (PIA)

Victorian Local Governance Association (VLGA)

Western Australian Local Government Association (WALGA)

 

Government bodies

Australian Capital Territory Government

Australian Government Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Communications

Government of South Australia Office of Local Government

Government of Western Australia Department of Communities

Government of Western Australia Department of Local Government, Sport and Cultural Industries

Local Government Victoria

New South Wales Government Office of Local Government

Northern Territory Government Department of Local Government, Housing and Community Development

Queensland Government Department of Local Government, Racing and Multicultural Affairs

 

Employee associations

Australian Services Union (ASU)

Australian Workers’ Union (AWU)

Community and Public Sector Union (CPSU)

Professionals Australia Local Government Engineers’ Association (LGEA)

United Services Union (USU)

Data sources and notes

Department of Employment 2020, Employment Projections, available from the Labour Market Information Portal

  • by ANZSIC 3 digit Local Government Administration Industry, employment projections to May 2024.

Australian Bureau of Statistics 2020, Employed persons by industry group of main job (ANZSIC), Sex, State and Territory, November 1984 onwards, 6291.0.55.003 - EQ06, viewed 1 August 2020 https://www.abs.gov.au/AUSSTATS/abs@.nsf/DetailsPage/6291.0.55.003May%202020?OpenDocument

  • Employed total by ANZSIC 3 digit Local Government Administration Industry, 2000 to 2020, May Quarter.

Australian Bureau of Statistics 2017, 2016 Census employment, income and unpaid work, TableBuilder. Findings based on use of ABS TableBuilder data.

  • Employment level by 3 digit Local Government Administration Industry, and 4 digit level occupations to identify the relevant VET-related occupations in the industry as a proportion of the total workforce.

Training data has been extracted from the National VET Provider Collection, Total VET students and courses from the following training package or qualifications:

  • LGA Local Government Training Package
  • General Local Government and Administration
    • LGA20104 - Certificate II in Local Government
    • LGA30104 - Certificate III in Local Government
    • LGA40104 - Certificate IV in Local Government
    • LGA40204 - Certificate IV in Local Government Administration
    • LGA50712 - Diploma of Local Government
    • LGA50604 - Diploma of Local Government (Regulatory Services)
    • LGA50104 - Diploma of Local Government Administration
  • Health and Environment
    • LGA30208 - Certificate III in Local Government (Health and Environment)
    • LGA40308 - Certificate IV in Local Government (Health and Environment)
    • LGA50208 - Diploma of Local Government (Health and Environment)
  • Operational Works
    • LGA10204 - Certificate I in Local Government (Operational Works)
    • LGA20204 - Certificate II in Local Government (Operational Works)
    • LGA30304 - Certificate III in Local Government (Operational Works)
    • LGA40404 - Certificate IV in Local Government (Operational Works)
    • LGA50404 - Diploma of Local Government (Operational Works)
    • LGA60104 - Advanced Diploma of Local Government (Operational Works)
  • Planning
    • LGA40708 - Certificate IV in Local Government (Planning)
    • LGA50508 - Diploma of Local Government (Planning)
  • Regulatory Services
    • LGA30404 - Certificate III in Local Government (Regulatory Services)
    • LGA40504 - Certificate IV in Local Government (Regulatory Services).

This includes superseded qualifications and training packages.

Data covers a range of selected student and training characteristics in the following categories and years:

  • 2015 to 2019 program enrolments
  • 2015 to 2019 subject enrolments
  • 2015 to 2019 program completions.

Total VET students and courses data is reported for the calendar year. Program enrolments are the qualifications, courses and skill-sets in which students are enrolled in a given period. For students enrolled in multiple programs, all programs are counted. Program completion indicates that a student has completed a structured and integrated program of education or training. Location data uses student residence. Subject enrolment is registration of a student at a training delivery location for the purpose of undertaking a module, unit of competency or subject. For more information on the terms and definitions, please refer to the Total VET students and courses: terms and definitions document.

Low counts (less than 5) are not reported to protect client confidentiality.

Percentages are rounded to one decimal place. This can lead to situations where the total sum of proportions in a chart may not add up to exactly 100%.

LGA Local Government Training Package apprentice and trainee data has been extracted from the National Apprentice and Trainee Collection, including:

  • 2010 to 2019 commencements
  • 2010 to 2019 completions
  • 2019 apprentices and trainees in-training October to December 2019 collection, by qualification and state and territory of data submitter.

Priority skills data have been extracted from the Local Government IRC’s 2019 Skills Forecast.

Updated: 24 Nov 2020
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