Queensland's skills shortage is accelerating alarmingly, with more than 40,000 workers urgently needed to halt the growing crisis which is suppressing the economy.
The issue is due largely to the mining boom in the state's north luring workers, with almost every sector being affected, though manufacturing and technical trades are being hit the worst.
According to business lobby groups, even industries as diverse as hairdressing and health are being plagued with persistent staffing problems because of state and federal government failures.
Figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics demonstrate that Queensland job vacancy increases are easily outstripping population growth. The current 41,600 vacant positions places the Sunshine State in a worse position than Victoria.
The figures come two years after The Courier-Mail reported a skills shortage of 36,800 - a 13% rise in the past two years while the population grew 5%.
The state's unemployment rate is 3.8% - less than the 4.3% nationally - with 86,600 adults out of work. But President of Commerce Queensland, Beatrice Booth, has warned the crisis would only worsen from a declining birth rate and retirements in an ageing workforce.
"Not much has changed and businesses are still suffering," said Ms Booth.
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The Bligh Government is continuing to roll out the $1 billion Queensland Skills Plan. More than 12,000 of the 17,000 extra places targeted by 2010 are already filled.
However, the State Opposition wants less focus on TAFE, which has cost almost $300 million this year, and wants more involvement from the private sector.
Training Minister Rod Welford rejected the claims, advocating a wide-ranging approach, also including funding for private sector and school-based and mature-age apprenticeships.
"(We) recognise that no one-size-fits-all approach can address the skills shortage and are introducing a range of strategies to improve access to information and training for industry, training providers, apprentices and trainees," a spokeswoman for Mr Welford said.
But Liberal National Party skills spokesman, John-Paul Langbroek, said that less of a focus on TAFE would encourage greater competition.
"If the current focus is working so well, why do we have this huge increase in jobs that need filling?" Mr Langbroek asked.