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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.

There were 190,800 employees in Local Government across Australia at the end of June 2021, in almost 400 occupations. 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. While Local Government organisation structures vary, all consist of elected representatives and council staff.

Currently, the sector is comprised of 537 local governments, 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.

Of the 537 local governments across Australia: 55% of councils are in regional and remote areas; 68% of the workforce is full-time, 16% is part-time and 16% is employed on a casual basis; and about 45% of employees have a diploma or high-level qualification.

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

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

Employment trends

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 2001 and 2021. This increase was steeper between 2001 and 2007 (including a particularly large rise between 2006 and 2007), with a more modest increase between 2011 and 2021. Employment is projected to increase from 139,900 in 2021 to 152,300 by 2025.

Training trends

Training snapshot

Program enrolments and program completions in Local Government-related qualifications have fluctuated between 2016 and 2020. Program enrolments peaked in 2016 at approximately 1,050 and in 2020 there were around 740. Program completions also peaked in 2016 at approximately 330 and in 2020 there were around 270.

Between 2016 and 2020 the vast majority of Local Government-related subjects were delivered as part of a nationally recognised program. In 2020, less than 1% of Local Government-related subjects were not delivered as part of a nationally recognised program.

In 2020, program enrolments were most common at the certificate IV level (46%), followed by the diploma or higher level (32%) and certificate III level (22%). Program enrolments in Local Government-related qualifications were mainly in the area of regulatory services (41%), followed by general local government and administration (28%) and operational works (22%). The most common intended occupations were Inspectors and Regulatory Officers, Program or Project Administrator, and Earthmoving Plant Operators.

In 2020, the majority of Local Government-related qualifications were delivered by private training providers (52%) and TAFE institutes (45%). Subjects were funded through Commonwealth and state funding (62%) and domestic fee for service (38%).

New South Wales had the single highest proportion of students enrolled in Local Government-related qualifications in 2020, with 28%, followed by Western Australia with 24% and Queensland with 22%. Differences in enrolments by state may be in part due to the different size and roles of Local Government in different areas.

The majority of all training was delivered in New South Wales (29%), followed by Western Australia (25%) and Queensland (22%).

Apprentice and trainee commencements and completions fell overall between 2011 and 2020. Commencements peaked in 2012 at approximately 250 while completions peaked in 2014 at around 210. There were 47 commencements and 49 completions in 2020. The most common intended occupation for apprentices and trainees was Earthmoving Plant Operators. The Northern Territory reported the largest proportion of apprentices and trainees, with 57%, followed by New South Wales with 25%.

For more data specific to your occupation, industry group or training package, visit NCVER's Data Builder.

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 highlighted the following priority skills for the industry:

  • Teamwork and communication
  • Analytical thinking and innovation
  • Resilience, stress tolerance and flexibility
  • Emotional intelligence.

In addition, the top generic skills identified for the Local Government industry include:

  • Communication / Virtual collaboration / Social intelligence
  • Learning agility / Information literacy / Intellectual autonomy and self management (adaptability)
  • Managerial / Leadership
  • Customer service / Marketing
  • Technology.

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.

Local Government Professionals Australia identified many similar issues in Improving the Capacity of Local Government. Key challenges facing the Local Government workforce include current and emerging skills shortages as well as training delivery and uptake. Specifically, the Local Government workforce is:

  • Considerably older than the Australian all-industry workforce
  • Struggling to attract and retain workers under 30 years of age
  • Experiencing challenges in recruiting and retaining apprentices
  • Facing major skills shortages in key professional and technical occupations, including Town Planners, Environmental Health Officers, Building Surveyors, Engineers and Plant Operators
  • Not well-positioned regarding new and emerging soft skills.

Councils in regional areas are particularly disadvantaged, facing additional barriers regarding training opportunities. Releasing staff for training course attendance becomes prohibitive due to small staffing numbers and difficulty in finding local providers to deliver the courses, for example. Sending staff to larger centres and metropolitan areas for training then compounds the issue as the staff need longer periods of time away from the office.

The document proposes a solution for future-proofing the Local Government workforce. Future-proofing would help Local Government to manage its workforce collaboratively and at a regional level, and would help the sector meet its current and future skills needs, provide opportunities to increase individuals' breadth of work experiences, and provide surge capacity and the development of a greater bank of regional talent, particularly developing talent and upskilling in the regions.

The Australian Local Government Association (ALGA) published the Closing the Gap Implementation Plan to help councils provide more employment and career opportunities for Indigenous Australians. It sets out actions councils can undertake to meet the priority reforms laid out under the 2020 National Agreement on Closing the Gap. The Implementation Plan will:

  • Support local governments to harness the opportunities provided to communities by the national Closing the Gap Plan
  • Help state and territory governments to work with local governments in implementing the National Closing the Gap Agreement
  • Support strengthened shared decision-making at the local level and help local governments partner with the Commonwealth, states and territory governments, and local Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.

The Implementation Plan is about providing local governments with additional tools to embrace collaboration with their Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities to deliver the Closing the Gap objectives in ways tailored to their individual circumstances and needs. Local governments have advocated strongly for Indigenous opportunity and participation and for Aboriginal community-controlled councils to be recognised nationally. The Implementation Plan will enhance the shared policy development and decision-making at the local government level that is fundamental to support the development of First Nations communities.

  • ALGA applauded calls for the nation's 537 councils to be given greater backing to protect local communities from the accelerating impacts of climate change. Clean Jobs for Communities: How Local Governments Can Create Sustainable, Strong Economies found that extreme weather events driven by global warming are taking a growing toll on community infrastructure owned by Local Government and valued at nearly $500 billion. The report highlights that Local Government plays a leading role in responding to climate change; but faces financial and other barriers in responding to natural disasters, bolstering infrastructure resilience, and reducing greenhouse gas emissions contributing to global warming. Local Government is well placed to design and deliver potential solutions that will protect people and community assets from new weather extremes. Additional resources will be needed and ALGA is calling for the next Australian Government to support communities in their climate change responses by investing in a Local Government Climate Change Partnership Fund of $200 million per annum over four years.

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.

 

IRC and Skills Forecasts

Local Government IRC

 

Relevant research

2020 National Agreement on Closing the Gap – Coalition of Peaks

ALGA Responds to New Warnings of Growing Climate Change Impacts at the Local Level [media release] – Australian Local Government Association (ALGA)

Clean Jobs for Communities: How Local Governments Can Create Sustainable, Strong Economies – Cities Power Partnership and Climate Council of Australia

Closing the Gap Implementation Plan – Australian Local Government Association (ALGA)

Councils Applaud Stimulus Package for Local Government [media release] – Australian Local Government Association (ALGA)

First Interim Report – Parliament of the Commonwealth of Australia. Senate. Select Committee on COVID-19

Improving the Capacity of Local Government – Local Government Professionals Australia

Local Roads and Community Infrastructure (LRCI) Program – Australian Government Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Communications

Submission to the Select Committee on COVID-19 – Australian Local Government Association (ALGA)

 

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 the Chief Minister and Cabinet (formerly Department of Local Government, Housing and Community Development)

Queensland Government Department of Local Government, Racing and Multicultural Affairs

Tasmanian Government

 

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 2021, Employment Projections, available from the Labour Market Information Portal

  • by ANZSIC 3 digit Local Government Administration Industry, employment projections to May 2025.

 

Australian Bureau of Statistics 2021, 6291.0.55.001 - EQ06 - Employed persons by Industry group of main job (ANZSIC), Sex, State and Territory, November 1984 onwards, viewed 1 August 2021, https://www.abs.gov.au/statistics/labour/employment-and-unemployment/labour-force-australia-detailed/may-2021

  • Employed total by ANZSIC 3 digit Local Government Administration Industry, 2001 to 2021, 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
    • LGA20120 - Certificate II in Local Government
    • LGA30104 - Certificate III in Local Government
    • LGA30120 - Certificate III in Local Government
    • LGA40104 - Certificate IV in Local Government
    • LGA40120 - Certificate IV in Local Government
    • LGA40204 - Certificate IV in Local Government Administration
    • LGA50104 - Diploma of Local Government Administration
    • LGA50120 - Diploma of Local Government
    • LGA50220 - Diploma of Local Government – Elected Member
    • LGA50604 - Diploma of Local Government (Regulatory Services)
    • LGA50712 - Diploma of Local Government.
  • 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:

  • 2016 to 2020 program enrolments
  • 2016 to 2020 subject enrolments
  • 2016 to 2020 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:

  • 2011 to 2020 commencements
  • 2011 to 2020 completions
  • apprentices and trainees in-training October to December 2020 collection, by qualification and state and territory of data submitter.
Updated: 20 Jan 2022
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