Special workforce strategy insights event

Business Chamber Queensland has brought together small and medium businesses from across construction, engineering, recruitment, healthcare and social assistance, software and more to discuss workforce challenges, and the future of work. 

More than 100 stakeholders connected at the event about the issues facing Queensland’s workforce, and to hear new ideas from guest speakers.  


Business Chamber Queensland CEO Heidi Cooper moderated the event, which included a keynote address from the Hon. Di Farmer MP, Minister for Employment and Small Business and Minister for Training and Skills Development on the Queensland Government’s Good People. Good Jobs. Queensland Workforce Strategy 2022 – 2032, and an expert panel featuring: 

  • Minister for Employment and Small Business and Minister for Training and Skills Development, Hon. Di Farmer MP. 
  • Head of People Integration and Innovation at Australian Retirement Trust, Adam Fitzhenry.
  • Chief People Officer, BDO, Peter O'Sullivan. 


The panellists discussed topics including: 

  • What flexible work means for today’s businesses and workforces 
  • The impact on remote work on concepts like mental health, incidental learning and collaboration
  • How changes to the physical design of workplaces can improve accessibility and productivity for visible and hidden disability 
  • The prominence of mental health as a focus area in a post-COVID world, and what it means for employers of all sizes, and more 

The discussion was followed by a Q&A session when guests were offered the opportunity to ask questions directly of panel members. 


Increasingly challenging workforce conditions

Heidi Cooper Business Chamber Queensland’s CEO said the chamber’s events were an opportunity to bring new people and new ideas into each other’s professional worlds.

When businesses are given the opportunity to connect, they get great ideas from each other. It’s often just small changes or a reframe in the way we think that can make a big impact, in all things, but particularly when we are looking at challenges facing the workforce. 

“Our Future of Work report, informed by Queensland businesses and supported by Australian Retirement Trust, tells us that we need to do things differently if we are going to be able to take the challenges head-on.

“The Queensland Government’s workforce strategy is about supporting and enabling businesses to manage in increasingly challenging workforce conditions.  


Supporting a growing economy

The Minister for Employment and Small Business, and Minister for Training and Skills Development, the Honourable Di Farmer MP provided an overview of how the government is supporting and enabling individuals, business and communities to connect, meet challenges, and continue to thrive.

We are facing workforce shortages, at a level that we’ve never experienced before. It’s not just affecting Queensland; it’s affecting the nation and it’s across the world.

“We have created more jobs than there are people for. The latest Commsec report shows that Queensland is now the best performing state economy—there are 224,000 more jobs now than before COVID-19.

“Now we need to look at how we support businesses to keep growing, and to make sure that we’re able to provide the services that Queenslanders want and need. 

Minister Farmer emphasised the importance of small and medium businesses to the economy. The minister noted that small and medium business owners often wear a number of hats – marketing, finance, sales, customer service. Many of the initiatives in the strategy have been designed to grow and sustain small businesses in Queensland. 



Workforce Participation 

The minister’s keynote was followed by a panel discussion, here’s the perspective of each expert.

The Honourable Di Farmer MP, Minister for Employment and Small Business, and Minister for Training and Skills Development.

We need to encourage people to think differently about who they employ. This type of thinking can be hard, because its new to us. If we don’t start to do things in increasingly original ways, we are missing out on huge potential from the depth of knowledge, skills, and experience of a range of cohorts across Queensland.

“Our strategy is multi-faceted. Increasing workforce participation is one focus area. We are also looking at how we can start in schools by increasing awareness of different pathways and types of careers and we are investing more in skills of the future.

“We know that our state has such varied needs we are focusing on local solutions, and we are working on ways to support businesses to attract and retain the talent they need.


Impact of Technology 

Adam Fitzhenry, Head of People Integration and Innovation at Australian Retirement Trust.

Naturally we are thinking about how new technologies and automation processes are impacting our sectors. We must all be thinking about how our roles coexist alongside technology, and supporting people build digital dexterity.

“We have a workforce of over 3,000 people, and a very high internal mobility rate which is something we are proud of. Retention and development of new skills is a big focus for us. Your people are your best asset, and we must look at skills over roles, and think about who in the organisation has the transferrable skills we need for tomorrow.

“We’re creating a culture of belonging. One step we’ve taken to drive an inclusive workplace, is rethinking our physical space. More digitally enabled collaboration spaces to connect those remote or in the office, equal access to all spaces, furniture that promotes equality, spaces designed for neurodiverse individuals and those with other support needs.


The Importance of Human Skills

Peter O'Sullivan, Chief People Officer, BDO

“Emerging skills in digital and data analysis are important, but we absolutely can’t lose focus of the importance of our people and the ‘human’ skills they bring.  

We’ve developed a diagnostic tool that helps employees identify strengths and development opportunities. The tool helps individuals think about their skills against the shifting world of work and map their current skills to identify opportunities and strengths.  

“challenging workforce conditions. But we also understand that magic happens when people come together, and in-person collaboration is an important component of any business strategy. 


To be the first to know about future events, see the Business Chamber Queensland events page

This event was supported by the Queensland Government, through the Good People. Good Jobs. Queensland Workforce Strategy 2022 – 2032. 


Acknowledgement of Country

Business Chamber Queensland respectfully acknowledges the Traditional Owners and custodians of the lands from across Queensland and the Torres Strait. We acknowledge the Jagera and Turrbal people as the Traditional Custodians of Meanjin (Brisbane), the lands where our office is located and the place we meet, work and learn. We pay our respects to Elders past and present.