In a first for the west of Melbourne, Skills and Jobs for Melbourne’s West has mapped urban skills and investigated the future jobs needs of employers in three target industry sectors – infrastructure, digital economy and social services and care. The project has co-designed strategies for sustainable growth in Melbourne’s West through employers' insights and collaboration with education and government to develop a future skilled workforce and greater prosperity.

Key research questions about Melbourne's west to be addressed in the project are:

  • How has the pandemic disproportionately impacted the labour force?
  • What has been the impact on existing industry/workforce/training issues?
  • What are the challenges for employers and industry in understanding skills and training?

This research will:

  • model the future outlook for skills and jobs, and the linkages between the two
  • listen to and engage with employers and industry
  • create engagement that matches employer skills need and the skills people have and want to develop
  • identify training and employment support opportunities
  • understand how work - based learning can support effective settings for economic growth.


As a result of the economic downturn due to COVID-19, it has been estimated that there will be a decline of approximately 20 percent of apprentices (equivalent to 50,000 fewer apprenticeships and trainees in training in 2023), with an overall diminished supply of trained tradespeople for up to eight years.

Federal programs have been introduced, such as Job Trainer, to provide support to apprentices and trainees. But the economic benefits of these programs are dependent on the success of individual apprentices in completing their training.

The Apprenticeship Support Program seeks to:

  • investigate what ‘best practice’ in student support for apprentices and businesses looks like
  • build an understanding of the vulnerabilities associated with apprenticeship completion
  • focuses on any transitional complexities that create barriers to completion
  • investigate how ‘soft skills’ can be developed throughout apprenticeship training.

COVID-19 restrictions have exacerbated existing problems associated with the unemployment and underemployment of young people in Australia. But, some research highlights that when formal education and training combines with an employment contract, outcomes for young people can improve (OECD, 2014).

This project examines the delivery of cadetships, which combine formal training with some form of paid practical work experience. Currently, cadetships feature in courses at diploma or bachelor degree levels, such as business.

The purpose of the Cadetship project is to understand how to adapt approaches, and aims to address this issue by utilising a place-based lens, focusing on specific industries in the West of Melbourne: Digital Economy and Infrastructure.

This research explores the relative university participation of different municipalities within the west of Melbourne through the concept of ‘cold spots’, or geographical areas where there are relatively lower rates of higher education participation.

It draws on census data of highest educational attainment of adults (HEAP) and explores the social, education, infrastructure and service elements that characterise ‘cold spots’ in the western suburbs of Melbourne.

The research is foreseen as generative of new insights into education participation, supporting a more equitable understanding of how to rebuild from pandemic disruption with enhanced access to tertiary opportunities.

Integration and collaboration between industry and universities is an important aspect of applying university innovations within a broader community context.

The small grants scheme is providing funding for up to 12 teams of university-industry partnerships. These small grants seek to celebrate excellence in industry engagement with Victoria University.

The seed funding is aimed at applied research projects which can be used to disseminate insights of current good practice engagement with industry across Victoria University (including VU Polytechnic) to facilitate further industry linkages into the future.

The small grants provide funding to facilitate VU staff’s engagement in small-scale applied research projects that will document case studies of their practice, including the relationships and processes of VU industry engagement. They seek to highlight promising practices underway now and enable the sharing of good practice in a range of disciplinary areas across the target industry/sectors of the project:

  • infrastructure
  • digital economy
  • and social services and care.

Further, the small grants’ purpose is to enable deeper reflection on current VU-industry practice and to facilitate the industry and VU partners to come together and document insights from their successful partnerships, and to identify future opportunities.

The Centre for Policy Studies (CoPS) at Victoria University will undertake modelling to explore questions related to the spatial dimensions to:

  • employment
  • jobs
  • skills
  • and residential location choice.

CoPS will draw on a particular model: Spatial Interactions between Regions and Cities in Australia (SIRCA). The SIRCA model will be well equipped to investigate the spatial impacts on jobs markets of policies related to:

  • transport infrastructure
  • land-use planning
  • education and training
  • and technical change.

Potential applications include analysis of the impacts on work in various occupations and locations arising from:

  • More frequent telecommuting in a post-COVID world and how this may affect where people choose to live and work and in what industries and occupations they work
  • The shift to renewables and electrification and any related risks and/or opportunities for jobs in different regions
  • Climate change impacts and adaptation and the impacts on the spatial distribution of jobs arising from climate change.

The Centre for International Research on Education Systems is undertaking research that explores the skill needs of employers located in the west of Melbourne.

The aim of the study is to draw insights from four target industries: infrastructure, social services and care, digital economic and manufacturing in order to facilitate an education and training response to skill needs of the west. Survey, interview and focus group research methods will be utilised to explore:

  • employers’ perceptions of any skills shortages that they experience
  • how the COVID pandemic has impacted their businesses or organisations
  • how businesses and organisations are currently involved in education and training
  • how employers and businesses will approach their future work strategies.

Skills & Jobs in Melbourne's West - Podcast series

Episode 1: Challenges and innovation in delivering education and training as part of the West Gate Tunnel Project

- Melissa Tham and Michael Williams in conversation with Alison Whan

Download episode 1 transcript

Episode 2: The Menu Project: Students as Partners in Nutrition Education

- Melissa Tham and Michael Williams in conversation with Monica Wellington and Simon Salerno (VU Student)

Download episode 2 transcript


Episode 3: Unpacking the Co-Design Process in Community Service Courses

- Melissa Tham and Michael Williams in conversation with Owen Smith and Cathy Cassar

Download episode 3 transcript


Research projects

Recent research projects focused on Melbourne's west include:

This landmark report, Strategies for Skills and Jobs in Melbourne’s West provides a way forward for prosperity in the West that centres on industry working with education providers and government. The report provides a comprehensive and co-designed set of strategies to overcome three specific challenges if Melbourne’s west is to thrive in the post-COVID economy.

The challenges were:

  • insufficient local jobs
  • leaks in the skill development pipeline
  • the presence of fragile networks linking education providers and industry.

The report sets out a way forward. Four main enablers of economic development were identified through the research:

  • creating a local skills eco-system
  • facilitating innovation, change and growth
  • authentic industry engagement
  • institutions as a space for industry and education collaboration.

We thank the Victorian Government for funding this project through the Victorian Higher Education State Investment Fund (VHESIF), and our partner, the West of Melbourne Economic Development Alliance (WoMEDA).

For further inquiries please email:

CIRES Researchers

Researches involved in the project included:

The first stage of the Skills and Jobs for Melbourne’s West project identified marked growth in the West of Melbourne working age population over the coming decade, when compared to the rest of Australia.

This population growth needs to be matched with a strong level of employment growth. However, the jobs held by West of Melbourne residents will increasingly be outside the West. Paradoxically, local employers say they struggle to find skilled employees.

Key Findings

  • Most employers in the West of Melbourne report a skills gap in the local labour force
  • Many residents in the West of Melbourne commute out of the area for work which will worsen in the future
  • Employers reported additional problems in staff recruitment, retention, career development, progression and building up employees’ skills
  • Only a third of employers have active links with training providers.

This report was supported by the West of Melbourne Economic Development Alliance and economic modelling by the Victoria University Centre of Policy Studies (CoPS) with funding by the Victorian State Government.

Download the report: Skill needs in the West

CIRES Researchers

Researches involved in the project included:

Industry partners