The most in-demand skills for 2021

A team in the office working together

What skills will be in greatest demand in 2021? The world of work and the skills required are constantly changing – this year more than most. So, whether you’re looking to get hired or add to your team, it pays to keep informed and understand the most in-demand skills for the year ahead.
With many organisations returning to growth and looking to protect their future, it’s no surprise that many of 2021’s most in-demand jobs are those deemed critical to project delivery or business operations. Also ranking highly are jobs that allow organisations and people to perform at their peak. 
In terms of the balance of temporary and permanent roles, while contract remained resilient throughout 2020, we expect permanent vacancy activity to bounce back as business confidence increases.
If you are job searching, make sure you know how to stand out this year. 

Skills in demand

Based on our recent conversations with employers about their recruitment plans, the following skills will be in highest demand in 2021.
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Read the full list below or tap through to the specialism most relevant to you:   

Accountancy & Finance

Within Australia’s accountancy and finance jobs market, the skills in greatest demand are:
  • Qualified Accountants who are Big 4 first and second movers and possess strong technical accounting skills, understand accounting standards and have exposure to large and/or listed businesses;
  • Payrollers with end-to-end payroll experience, specific payroll system skills, such as Micropay and Preceda, and the ability to interpret awards and EBAs. Candidates are especially sought for part-time roles;  
  • Commercial Analysts who can partner with a business to provide commercial insights and who possess strong software skills including Tableau and Power BI. 


Within Australia’s architecture jobs market, the skills in greatest demand are:
  • Residential Drafters with experience who can carry out design work for kit and custom design homes in response to an increase in new home builds;
  • Environmental Planners with public sector experience who can work on new urban development plans that have been fast tracked in response to infrastructure investment;
  • Urban/Town Planners who can work on parks and community assets, such as mixed-use zones incorporating commercial and residential precincts, public transport terminals and common areas. Experience with local authority or council codes and standards is required. 


Within Australia’s banking jobs market, the skills in greatest demand are:
  • Business Development Managers, Brokers and Lending Managers with mortgage and or business lending and credit experience. Low interest rates have encouraged an uptick in activity, particularly as small businesses action growth plans that were on hold for much of 2020;
  • Credit Analysts experienced in residential and or business lending given increasing volumes and growth plans; 
  • Risk and Compliance Managers for roles in banks in response to external pressure from regulators.


Within Australia’s construction jobs market, the skills in greatest demand are:
  • Residential Estimators who can complete production or sales estimating for busy mid to high volume project home builders; 
  • Site Supervisors with experience working for insurance companies on remedial work, including completing a make safe, estimating a job then either completing or at the minimum supervising the project through to completion;
  • Commercial Site Managers with experience working on childcare, aged care and education projects and a trade background. 

Contact Centres

Within Australia’s contact centres jobs market, the skills in greatest demand are:
  • Sales & Service Representatives at the $50,000 entry level with experience working to sales targets or cross selling, strong customer service skills and high emotional intelligence who can ensure a good conversion rate from new and existing customers;
  • Customer Service Officers with exposure to financial services and good systems skills to work remotely, as well as a high level of resilience when faced with ambiguous or difficult customers;
  • Claims Consultants with experience in the insurance industry for roles created in response to catastrophic events as well as in compulsory third party insurance.  


Within Australia’s defence jobs market, the skills in greatest demand are:
  • Systems Engineers with defence experience, a mechanical or electrical background, a security clearance, leadership aspirations and strong communication skills;
  • Contract Commercial Managers and Project Managers with experience using Australian Standard for Defence Contracting (ASDEFCON) templates, a current NV1 or NV2 security clearance, defence expertise and both international and Australian project experience;
  • Integrated Logistics Support (ILS) practitioners at all levels with prior defence industry experience, a security clearance and a solid understanding of Australian Defence Force ILS principles and practices. 


Within Australia’s education jobs market, the skills in greatest demand are:
  • Centre Directors who are ECT qualified due to the increasing number of childcare centres;
  • Early Childhood Teachers – the low salaries associated with this role continue to add to the shortage of ECT's;
  • Diploma qualified OOSH Coordinators – regulatory changes necessitate a higher ratio of diploma qualified staff per centre. While some employers offer on-the-job traineeships, many instead want Coordinators who are already diploma trained;
  • High School Teachers in the subject areas of Technology, Mathematics and Science since these candidates are attracted to non-teaching job opportunities in their industry;
  • English Teachers as this is one of the largest faculties in a high school, which creates continuous demand;
  • Qualified Trainers and Assessors within vocational education with industry experience and training qualifications, especially in growth sectors such as health, technology and cleaning services.


Within Australia’s energy jobs market, the skills in greatest demand are:
  • Grid Connections Engineers/Managers with experience managing the development and construction of projects. Congestion and system strength issues are adding to this demand; 
  • CEC Accredited Electricians who can work on an increasing number of residential, commercial and industrial solar projects; 
  • Power Systems Engineers with experience working across power generation, transmission and distribution components to connect renewable energy projects to the grid;
  • Electrical Engineers in renewables and R&D in response to recent investments in clean energy projects and the resulting surge in activity. Energy storage, biofuels and power generation skills are sought;
  • CEC Accredited Electrical Engineers who can take on principal roles with design consultancies and owner operators due to an increase in solar projects, from domestic through to utility; 
  • Structural Designers to work in design consultancies, again in response to an increase in solar projects.  


Within Australia’s engineering jobs market, the skills in greatest demand are:
  • Control Systems Engineers with multiple platform hardware and software experience in addition to qualifications in machine safety. These candidates are required as engineering consultancies increase headcount for integration projects in the food and manufacturing industries, and for capital projects in the resources and heavy industries;
  • Civil Designers with formal qualifications who can work in a consultancy and focus on land subdivision and earthworks relating to storm water and sewage planning. Multiple software package exposure is required as varied platforms are typically used, including Revit, AutoCAD, Civil 3D and 12D;
  • Civil & Structural Engineers for consultancies with a mix of civil and structural experience in addition to experience managing design teams and CPEng certification.


Within Australia’s executive jobs market, the skills in greatest demand are:
  • Transformational C-suite and board-level candidates with strong systems knowledge and an intuitive understanding of integrated software systems and the relationship between supply chain, distribution and channels to market;
  • Innovative C-suite and board-level candidates with a sound understanding of the business cycle and experience successfully managing each stage;
  • C-suite and board-level candidates with commercial acumen who can analyse and interpret financial information, then provide meaningful and objective commercial advice.

Facilities Management

Within Australia’s FM jobs market, the skills in greatest demand are:
  • Facilities Managers with strong stakeholder engagement or public sector experience, a focus on contract management, communication skills and an ability to work through the complexities of a flexible workforce. An engineering or building background is valued, as is exposure to the healthcare sector as hospitals commence upgrades;
  • Planners and Schedulers who can drive increased efficiency during planned and reactive maintenance, with an analytical approach, strong attention to detail and IT systems skills, including Excel and specialist systems;
  • Project Managers – HVAC who can scope work upgrades, manage a project through to completion and have a specific HVAC background;
  • Residential Building Managers who can attend to maintenance, particularly in common areas that are receiving more wear and tear as people work from home; 
  • Building Inspectors/Asset Surveyors who can inspect properties and carry out the necessary maintenance. Government departments that want to update asset registers before commencing increased maintenance programs also require candidates with clear report writing skills.
  • Data Centre/Technical Facilities Managers who can manage a back office in response to the growth of remote working.   


Within Australia’s healthcare jobs market, the skills in greatest demand are:
  • Occupational Therapists, Speech Pathologists and Psychologists in Allied Health at all levels, including graduates, to work in the community sector with NDIS participants as well as the aged care sector;
  • Mental Health Practitioners and Clinicians with social work or psychology degrees and professional registrations who can work in a range of settings, including phone-based triage services and case management in government and non-government organisations;
  • Family Violence Specialists with a social work, counselling or psychology degree to provide counselling services, case management and men’s behaviour change programs within court services and the community.

Human Resources

Within Australia’s human resources jobs market, the skills in greatest demand are:
  • Organisational Design & Development Consultants and Managers who can rebuild, restructure and realign businesses and teams to meet new market requirements in 2021;
  • Talent Acquisition Specialists and Internal Recruiters with end-to-end experience who can engage candidates in industries impacted by skill shortages, such as resources & mining, IT and not-for-profit. 
  • Employee Relations and Industrial Relations Advisors for temporary roles who can assist on redundancy and restructuring projects, contribute to HR systems improvements and resolve performance and workforce issues;
  • Work Health and Safety Officers with a corporate policy, procedure and process background who can create a COVID-19 safe working environment and improve the mental health support offered to staff.


Within Australia’s insurance jobs market, the skills in greatest demand are:
  • Brokers with a tier 1 qualification and at least five years of experience – the lack of entry-level roles over recent years has created today’s shortage of experienced professionals;
  • Assistant Account Executives with solid experience who wish to remain in this role – most candidates advance to become Account Executives;  
  • Liability & Professional Indemnity Claims Handlers at the consultant and manager level with specialised experience in liability and professional indemnity;
  • Dispute Resolution Officers with experience in specialist areas such as travel and life claims – such niche expertise is in short supply yet growing demand as insurance companies move this function inhouse. 

Information Technology

Within Australia’s IT jobs market, the skills in greatest demand are:
  • Cloud Engineers in both AWS and Azure. Demand has increased because of COVID-19 and the resulting growth of virtual working models that require scalable, secure, reliable and cost-effective off-premises technologies; 
  • Security Awareness Consultants who can effectively educate employees about online dangers when working remotely;
  • Full Stack Developers with React, Microservices and Cloud (AWS or Azure) experience. Demand is due to increased traffic to businesses’ customer facing systems.


Within Australia’s legal jobs market, the skills in greatest demand are:
  • Commercial Litigation and Insolvency Lawyers – litigation was a highly buoyant area pre-COVID-19 and is expected to grow rapidly in 2021 as individuals and business owners fall into contractual or company disputes due to pandemic-induced financial pressure;
  • Insurance Lawyers for both the public sector and law firms who can work on child and sexual abuse claims following outcomes on royal commission investigations and subsequent historical abuse claims;
  • Commercial Property Lawyers with strong commercial property skills in acquisitions, disposals and leasing.

Life Sciences

Within Australia’s life sciences jobs market, the skills in greatest demand are:
  • Clinical research professionals who can gather and utilise real world evidence to bolster clinical trial data;
  • Marketing professionals at all levels with strong digital and or eCommerce experience who can help shape future life sciences digital strategies;
  • Business Insights & Analytics professionals as life sciences companies utilise AI and CRM information to inform sales strategies.


Within Australia’s logistics jobs market, the skills in greatest demand are:
  • Warehouse Managers with experience in WMS, reducing operating costs, labour spend management and managing a team of approximately 15 people. System implementation skills are a bonus; 
  • Fleet Controllers with experience managing large fleets of both company owned drivers and sub-contractors, strong communication skills and the ability to manage drivers and customers at a senior level;
  • Transport Operations Managers with extensive experience managing teams within fast-paced domestic road operations. Strong commercial acumen, an expert understanding of cost levers across operation, especially truck utilisation and route planning, and expertise in NHVAS and OH&S are essential.

Marketing & Digital

Within Australia’s marketing and digital jobs market, the skills in greatest demand are:
  • CRM and Loyalty Managers who can manage large volumes of data and reporting from various customer segment to create a loyalty platform, strategy or retention tool. Experience across data analytics and transforming data into business intelligence, as well as creating or integrating CRM platforms or systems into a marketing toolkit, is valued;
  • Creative and Content Managers with a background in copywriting, graphic design or art direction who can support brand authenticity and a go-to-market strategy. As organisations bring creative control and content management inhouse, this skill ensures a marketing team can manage each stage of a project, from creative concept to final execution;
  • Digital Marketing Experts with broad insights across all digital touchpoints, from social media to app and platform management, who can manage partnerships with influencers, email campaigns, SEM and SEO, paid advertising and loyalty management. Demand is greatest in SMEs, particularly medium-sized organisations that are bringing digital requirements inhouse. The shift to digital has accelerated rapidly in the last year, further adding to demand;
  • eCommerce Managers who can truly drive trade performance on an online site, including content, product scheduling, digital data and marketing, identify areas for improvement, create commerce calendars and plan promotional activities across digital and traditional channels. 

Manufacturing & Operations

Within Australia’s manufacturing and operations jobs market, the skills in greatest demand are:
  • Production/Operations Managers with extensive experience across FMCG and packaging along with ERP/MRP experience and the ability to manage a team of approximately 10 people;
  • Quality Managers/Supervisors with strong experience in exports, a HACCP qualification and good Halal manufacturing experience;
  • Reliability/Continuous Improvement Engineers across the entire manufacturing industry with a health, safety and environment background.

Office Support

Within Australia’s office support jobs market, the skills in greatest demand are:
  • Office Assistants who can offer support across all departments while a new organisational structure is determined, liaise with internal stakeholders, answer telephone calls, generate reports, format documents and book meeting rooms; 
  • Executive Assistants for an increasing volume of work; 
  • Project Support Officers in the government sector who offer back-end support for projects and possess excellent time management, prioritisation, calendar management, meeting agenda preparation and stakeholder engagement skills. 

Policy & Strategy

Within Australia’s policy and strategy jobs market, the skills in greatest demand are:
  • Governance, Risk & Compliance experts with skills across governance, compliance and risk management who can develop and implement an organisation’s risk appetite and framework, particularly in relation to COVID-19 and business continuity;  
  • Grants Managers with experience in the grants management process and the use of a grants management system given the increase in government funding across many areas;
  • Policy and Project Managers with a broad range of skills and subject matter expertise who are highly articulate in policy development and can help an organisation review and/or develop internal policies in response to COVID-19. Project management and stakeholder engagement expertise is key. 


Within Australia’s procurement jobs market, the skills in greatest demand are:
  • Category Managers with excellent stakeholder management and spend analysis skills, as well as experience managing the end-to-end category lifecycle across technology portfolios;
  • Procurement Specialists who can develop detailed and complex specifications with strategic sourcing experience and strong negotiation and project management skills; 
  • Contracts Managers with a current focus on commercial management, contract administration and complex variations, in addition to experience formulating contracts for legal approval. 


Within Australia’s property jobs market, the skills in greatest demand are:
  • Sales Agents with strong negotiation skills in the residential and industrial segments. Listing agents in residential are in greatest demand due to a stock shortage;
  • Investment Managers and Analysts with a strong understanding of financial modelling, feasibilities and due diligence to help investors and owners understand the short and long-term impact of the pandemic on existing portfolios and new acquisitions and developments;
  • Industrial property experts – across the industrial industry, any property professional with industrial experience is in demand and can secure a job. 


Within Australia’s retail jobs market, the skills in greatest demand are:
  • Category Coordinators and Managers with strong analytical skills, advanced Excel and FMCG experience; 
  • Merchandise Planners with experience. Demand is evident in all sectors, including luxury, big box and FMCG, and is exacerbated by the current shortage of candidates from overseas; 
  • Sales Assistants with experience in the luxury market and Mandarin language skills. Candidates prefer to remain in their current role, however luxury is a thriving market with private appointments and new store openings adding to demand.  

Resources & Mining

Within Australia’s resources and mining jobs market, the skills in greatest demand are:
  • Mobile Plant Operators – these candidates are in extremely short supply, with interest impacted by the potential to automate these roles; 
  • Heavy Diesel (HD) Fitters who can service additional machinery brought onto mine sites as production increases. Existing skill shortages in this area show no sign of abating; 
  • Mine Engineers with drill and blast experience as gold and iron ore mines increase production. With fewer graduates choosing a career in mining, demand continues to exceed supply. 


Within Australia’s sales jobs market, the skills in greatest demand are:
  • Business Development Managers with a strong network of commercial clients who can develop relationships with clients, deal with a variety of stakeholders and are solutions-focused;
  • New Business Sales Representatives who enjoy developing relationships with new clients, creating sales pipelines, closing deals and balancing high-volume KPIs with a strategic and customer centric approach;
  • Specification Salespeople with a solid network of Architects and Designers given the increasing number of commercial and infrastructure projects;
  • Account Managers with high-level C-suite connections at major retailers who can maximise customer spend and market share.

Trades & Labour

Within Australia’s trades and labour jobs market, the skills in greatest demand are:
  • Domestic HVAC Technicians for service and install work with a Certificate III in air conditioning and their electrical license;
  • Plasterers with experience in the whole range of plastering, from setting to sheeting, for commercial and residential new builds and refurbishments; 
  • Plumbers in the commercial and maintenance sectors who are trade qualified with a gas fitting dual trade and TMV and Backflow endorsements.

Looking for a new job?  

If you are looking to advance your career in 2021, our free CV template and cover letter can help you stand out. Don’t forget to search our available jobs or explore our career advice hub for more practical tips.
Good luck. 

About this author

Nick Deligiannis, Managing Director, began working at Hays in 1993 and since then he has held a variety of consulting and management roles across the business. In 2004 he was appointed to the Hays Board of Directors. He was made Managing Director of Australia and New Zealand in 2012.

Prior to joining Hays, he had a background in human resource management and marketing, and has formal qualifications in Psychology.

Follow Nick on LinkedIn

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