The demand for specialist workers in the Australian construction industry is expected to be on the rise, especially in the second half of this decade.
With forthcoming changes in Australia's resources sector, skills development is going to play a key part in meeting new industry demands. The resource industry is shifting from the construction phase into operations, and major oil and gas projects will require that workers are prepared for these changes, or undersupply of necessary skills may prove difficult to avoid.
Based on economic projections, there could be a significant change in workforce requirements, especially from 2013 to 2018. While trade and labour positions are expected to decrease in number, professional and specialist jobs are likely to see an increase.
The Australian Workforce and Productivity Agency (AWPA) believes that oil and gas operations are likely to increase by as much as 57%, creating 22,000 new jobs by 2018, as major gas projects worth $200 billion under construction move into the production phase. They also predict a steady increase in mining operations work by 7.4%. Resource project construction, on the other hand, is expected to decline by as much as 91%.
As result, resource companies could face significant challenges in recruiting and retaining workers that possess the required skills and experience in specialist operations. Global competition for skilled workers is on the rise, and it takes significant time to develop these critical skills.
However, what this also means is that government and education, the industry, and training providers have the opportunity to help meet these fast-approaching demands, particularly in the second half of this decade.
According to some experts and analysts, the industry should work with the education sector to create a strategy that will support skills development domestically, for jobs in oil and gas operations. Career advice strategies to market these new careers should also be made a priority. Additionally, the industry should provide input to support the development of skills in science, technology, engineering and math.
Australian Petroleum Production and Exploration Association CE David Beyers noted that an additional $180 billion may be injected into the oil and gas industry over the next 20 years. This would create 150,000 jobs in the Australian economy.
In order to remain competitive globally, however, Australia will have to focus on skill development as well as overall productivity. Beyers notes that there is currently too much duplication and inefficiency in regulatory processes that apply to major projects. By his estimation, construction work in Australia can cost up to five times more than on the US Gulf Coast. Should the high cost of business remain as is, the LNG projects currently underway may even be the last of their kind for a while.
AWPA board member Keith Spence commented that Australia may have to bring in overseas workers to fill positions in the short term. However, he also feels that training Australians to fill these positions should be a priority for the industry. There is an opportunity for the industry to retain and retrain trade workers to fill operations roles as construction shifts into operations.
Image: Elvert Barnes