Estimates predict a need for at least 86,000 new mining professionals and skilled workers in Australia by 2020.
Estimates predict a need for at least 86,000 new mining professionals and skilled workers in Australia by 2020. Rob Griffith

Some sectors still face qualified labour shortages

TRAINING of local workers is one of the keys to combating the skills shortage within the Australian labour market.

Deloitte's Tracking the Trends 2013 report noted that while some sectors had seen an easing in immediate labour force pressures, others - the mining industry in particular, faced chronic shortages.

Recent relief from labour undersupply, according to the report, was largely due to volatility in commodity prices in late 2012, and was not expected to last.

Vern Wills, the CEO and managing director of the Site Group International, which operates training provider Site Skills Training and workforce solutions company Site WorkReady, agreed that even if there were project delays or cancellations over the next few years, there would still be an undersupply of skilled labour.

"Tackling the skills shortage is all about providing feasible training pathways to fill short and long-term demand for skilled workers," Mr Wills said.

Estimates predict a need for at least 86,000 new mining professionals and skilled workers in Australia by 2020.

"Cross-training already skilled workers as well as up-skilling persons from other industries are both viable solutions, however, industry also needs to start relying more heavily on the skilling of unexperienced persons looking to enter tomorrow's workforce," Mr Wills said.

Cross-training is a workforce strategy also recommended in the Deloitte report, suggesting companies can help tackle skills shortages by re-training existing workers to fulfil different functions.

Skills Queensland has estimated an annual workforce turnover of more than 30% for fly-in fly-out workers as well as 26% in drilling, 30% in civil construction and 30% for managers in the coal sector.

While wages hikes can address this issue, the Deloitte report highlights that they come at an unsustainable price for companies - "both for majors, who cannot continue to raise salaries indefinitely, and for juniors, who cannot afford to attract or retain the talent they need".

"Attrition out of industry not only places pressure on companies to fill new jobs but also to find new hires for existing roles," Mr Wills said.

"These unsustainable costs impact on the financial viability of projects, which are ultimately susceptible to buoyant commodity prices, which are not expected to remain high over the longer-term."

Site Skills Training operates facilities in Perth, Darwin, Gladstone, on the Sunshine Coast and in the Philippines.



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