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Open Letter to the Outdoor Industry on Workforce Challenges

We write to the industry today to express our profound disappointment and concern regarding the release of the recent Draft Core Skills Occupation List for the National Migration Strategy. and the notably brief consultation period provided by the Federal Government.

The outdoor industry, which was severely impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, continues to face significant challenges in rebuilding a skilled workforce. Our sector heavily relied on skilled overseas workers pre-COVID, a resource that is essential not only for our recovery but also for our sustainable growth.


As the state peak body in NSW and the ACT responsible for Outdoor Recreation, Outdoor Education, Adventure Tourism and Nature Therapy, Outdoors NSW & ACT (ONSWACT) represents a workforce of 57,003 (Jan 2024) which was 78,000 people in 2018 (Marsden Jacobs Report “Nature Based Outdoor Economy” 2018) in NSW & ACT.


Since the pandemic, our attempts to engage with various avenues to highlight these issues have been relentless. However, we are perplexed and disheartened to see that “Outdoor Adventure Guides” are listed as "Confident OFF LIST" for non-consideration in the priority skills register despite our continuous efforts to gain recognition. This decision seems to overlook the pressing needs of our industry and our ongoing advocacy in this area.

"We have representation for the Outdoors on the industry reference group with Humanability & Service & Creative Skills Australia as we cross over two JSC portfolio areas (Sport & Rec / Tourism) as well as chair the NSW ITAB and support the states discussions and activities to support national initiatives. We are a small voice in comparison to some industries but an important voice for the education needs of our youth, the economic needs of our communities and country and the health needs of our the broader population." says Lori Modde, CEO of Outdoors NSW & ACT.


Recent data from the Outdoors NSW & ACT Census in January 2024 indicates a startling demand for personnel, with each outdoor adventure or activity organisation in NSW and ACT needing to employ an average of nine additional qualified staff in 2024. Across the industry, this translates to a need for approximately 15,677 skilled workers today. These statistics are a stark representation of the challenges we face and underscore the necessity for timely and effective action.


Moreover, the brief 10-day window for the survey to be open on such a critical issue affecting our migration strategy is insufficient. This limited timeframe hampers meaningful engagement with the broader industry and its sectors and thorough feedback from industry stakeholders, potentially leading to oversight of crucial factors that impact the sector’s viability and growth.

The industry can participate in the survey until 10 May, and include your experience with your skills set needs here Alternatively you can upload a submission by 30 May 2024.


We respectfully urge Jobs and Skills Australia to reconsider its position in classification of Outdoor Adventure Guides in the Draft Core Skills Occupation List as a 'Confident On List'. Our industry is at a critical juncture, and without the ability to fill these crucial roles with skilled personnel, both domestically and internationally, our capacity to sustain and expand is severely compromised. This comes at a time where the tourism agencies are pushing our adventure tourism as a key feature of the Australian tourism experience.

We are keen to engage in a more constructive dialogue and work collaboratively towards a resolution that supports the needs of the outdoor industry and have reached our to Jobs and Skills Councils; Humanability & Service & Creative Skills Australia to assist us.

If you want to see our industry supported in the Migration Strategy, act now and complete the survey or upload your own submission.

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