Minister for Small and Family Business, Skills and Vocational Education Senator Michaelia Cash will meet with businesses across Australia over the next two weeks to get feedback on the best policies to support the small business sector.

Cash will talk to family businesses and small businesses in Adelaide, Perth, Albany, Brisbane, the Sunshine Coast and Rockhampton.

“I’ll be visiting as many small businesses as possible - including retailers, workshops, pubs, cafes, building sites and farms, to experience their operations and understand the issues that affect them,” she said.

“Australians have heard a lot about the ‘big end of town.’ My focus is on small and family business – the engine room of the Australian economy.

“Small and family businesses are the lifeblood of our regional communities, our suburbs, our industry and our economy.”

There are 2.2 million small businesses in Australia employing 4.8 million people.

“They’re 97 per cent of all business in the country and employ 44 per cent of the business workforce,” Cash said.

“These businesses are essential to our economic narrative.

“Small and family businesses deserve a fair go. We need to ensure we have a policy framework that enables them to do what they do best – create jobs for Australians.”

Just last week the Australian Industry Group (Ai) released a survey which found businesses are struggling with skills shortages.

Ai Group’s head of workforce development Megan Lilly said small businesses surveyed complained of difficulty recruiting, particularly for trade and digital roles.

Three quarters (75%) of businesses surveyed by Ai Group, large and small, reported experiencing skill shortages, up from 49% in a previous survey conducted in 2016.

Shortages were most often reported in technician, trade worker and STEM categories, but new shortages for roles in business automation, big data and artificial intelligence have also emerged.

“A lot of SMEs are digitising … but they’re finding it hard to get the right skills into their businesses,” Lilly explains.

Literacy and numeracy skills were also outlined as a pain point for business, with 99% of employers, up from 96% in 2016, saying they are affected in some way by low levels of literacy and numeracy in their workforce.

This compares to 96% recorded in the 2016 survey.

“[Businesses] are dissatisfied with the basic numeracy and literacy skills of over one-fifth of school-level entrants,” Ai Group chief executive Innes Willox said in the report.


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