Health, safety, environment and wellbeing jobs on the rise

The following article is a news item provided for the benefit of the Workplace Health and Safety profession. Its content does not necessarily reflect the views of the Australian Institute of Health & Safety.
Sunday, 11 September, 2022 - 11:30
Industry news

More health, safety, environment and wellbeing jobs are being advertised in Australia than ever before, according to recent research.

Advertised HSE jobs have doubled in the past two years to reach an all-time high in July 2022

While Australia’s employment market is strong as a whole, HSE is a clear ‘hot spot’ growing 36 per cent times faster than the national average, according to the latest Safe Step HSE Job Opportunities Index.

Public sector demand for HSE professionals has been strong, accelerating 52.3 per cent in three months, while mining is up 26.1 per cent and construction is up 27.9 per cent.

Contract opportunities are also at record highs and are expected to strengthen further with any downturn in the economy.

“As cost pressures increase, so too will demand for contractors,” said Aaron Neilson, CEO of The Safe Step. “In the latter part of 2022, we expect organisations will become slightly more cautious about additional permanent headcount and look to specialist short-term contractors to support resourcing needs.”

There are a number of important implications in this for organisations, he added – the first of which is to prepare for stiff competition.
“HSE professionals are extremely hard to find, attract and retain at the moment and will remain so for the rest of the year. Recruiting for a junior to mid-level position is hardest of all,” said Neilson.

Advertised HSE coordinator roles, for example, have increased by 270 per cent in 12 months.

Employers that are most successful in attracting quality talent are considering how their offer will stand out in a sea of job opportunities, and Neilson said strong culture, development opportunities, a competitive salary and flexible ways of working are all highly sought after by candidates who are savvy about their current value in the market.

Neilson also said investment in development is crucial: “in a market that is flush with jobs and salaries inflated, organisations are needing to compromise on budget or capability and in some cases both, creating both short- and medium-term challenges,” he said.

“Never has the importance of developing talent been more relevant. With the busy world of work and life, having the right intent around development and actually finding the time to prioritise is a real conundrum for many.”

If done well, investing in the development of less experienced talent can clearly benefit engagement and retention, and Neilson said more organisations need to be more considered and effective in enabling the development of their people in the current market.

Organisations have struggled to attract health, safety, environment and wellbeing professionals, according to Neilson, who said that in order to meet market demands, many employers have responded with up to a 30-plus per cent uplift in salary.

“While from a jobseeker perspective this salary inflation has been a positive ‘in the moment’ opportunity, there needs to be a lens of realism applied as we move into the next phase of the jobs market,” he said.

“As 2022 progresses, job seekers need to be mindful to understand their value in the market and not overstate this in accepting or pushing for salaries that are beyond their level of experience and capability as it will add undue pressure on them as they navigate a new role and business in some circumstances.”

Increased salaries also lead to increased expectations, and Neilson said employers expect greater value to be delivered for greater remuneration.

“If the return on investment is not clearly demonstrated then as cost pressure increases further (which it will), the business runs the risk of having to restructure fixed costs out of the business. This in turn may result in headcount reduction. Those being paid the highest wages will have the biggest expectations from employers,” he said.

Neilson also noted HSE contractor roles are growing strongly, and uncertain economic headwinds and rising interest rates are likely to continue driving demand for interim support in the year ahead.

“As cost pressure increases, organisations will become slightly more cautious about adding additional permanent headcount. Instead, they will look towards specialist, short-term contractors to support resourcing needs. This will balance out the HSE employment market to a more ‘normal’ setting across the course of 2023,” he said.

Lastly, there has been an exponential increase in job opportunities for wellbeing professionals, as well as those in the broader ESG field. This shift in demand is creating additional career pathways for those looking to expand their remit or shift to a more specialist role within the broader function, said Neilson.

“In both areas, organisations continue to seek subject matter expertise to provide informed practice, leading to strategy that delivers impact. Investing in your own development, embarking on study or taking-on additional opportunities within your current role are all considerations that will lead to different career opportunities in the short to medium term,” he said.