Mining skills shortage predicted to worsen
Posted: 06/04/2012 12:00:00 AM EDT | 0
The skills shortage currently facing the Australian mining and utilities sector is set to worsen, as skilled job vacancies set to soar with 96 resource and energy projects forecasted to be built or expansions within the next year.
The Australian Mines and Metals Association estimates jobs vacancies both in the mining and oil and gas industry could surge dramatically from a current 6000 positions to 40, 000 vacancies within the next year.
The predicted rise comes as the Australian mining sector is faced with the task of completing $260 billion worth of new projects and expansions across the country.
The result is that the resources industry is faced with critical shortages across engineering professions, tradespeople, plant operators and machinery operators, which could have detrimental impacts on labour costs and project delays.
Nev Power, managing director of Fortescue Metals Group, recently told The Australian that the skills shortage was impacting most on trying to recruit engineers.
“The toughest skills for us to recruit at the moment are civil engineers, experienced mining engineers, mine superintendents and those sorts of people,” Mr Power said.
Fortescue, like many other mining giants, have been forced to recruit workers from overseas with specific skills sets in maintenance and production areas.
The option to recruit from overseas as a solution to the skills shortage is echoed by the Australian Government, through the introduction of Enterprise Migration Agreements (EMAs) which are intended to ensure skill shortages do not create constraints on major projects or jeopardise Australian jobs.
Last week, the first EMA was granted to the new iron ore mining Roy Hill project in the Pilbara region of Western Australia, which will allow the hiring of up to 1700 foreign workers for the proposed $9.5 billion mine construction.
“With more than 8000 workers required during the construction phase of the Roy Hill project, there simply aren’t enough people in the local workforce to get the job done,” said Chris Bowen, MP and Minister for Immigration and Citizenship.
The approval of the first EMA coincided with a Minerals Council of Australia dinner in Canberra last week, where the role of EMAs and Labor’s response to the skills shortage was debated.
At the dinner, Mr Ferguson said that the first priority would go to Australian workers and the EMA was not about keeping labour costs down.
“The real problem is that we have a shortage of labour in Australia,” he said.
However despite this, Mr Power recently told the Australian that the present debate on foreign workers filling job vacancies had been taken ‘a bit out of context.’
“Last year Australia had about 56,000 primary 457 visas issues and the majority of those went into NSW and in the health, IT and construction sectors,” he said.
At the end of March there were 7290 holders of 457 visas working in the mining industry, making it the fifth-biggest user of the temporary visa system.
According to Georgina Davis, Workforce Planning Manager for Energy Skills Queensland, to deal with the current skills shortage, the mining industry needs to be strategic and proactive to ensure they maintain a sustainable and suitable skilled workforce now and in the future.
“Failure to plan and implement effective workforce development strategies which address critical issues will severely impact an industry’s future sustainability and growth,” she said.
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