The head of Queensland’s leading industry body says choosy workers are making will make it difficult to fill the skills gaps in the state. In the next year, 30000 workers will be needed in the Bowen Basin, and Queensland Resources Council chief executive said he was shocked to discover 2500 unfilled places exist in the minerals and resources sector alone.
“At the moment the workforce is being very choosy, you really have to move heaven and earth to make it attractive for them because they do have alternatives, particularly the younger generation,” he told The Daily Mercury.
“They are very mobile, they can get on a plane and fly to Mackay or Moranbah or they can maybe stay on the plane an extra couple of hours and fly to Western Australia, and I’m hearing for some of those jobs there is a premium to be paid.”
He said the mining boom will be held back by the skills shortage, despite initiatives to expand the industry.
“The fundamentals are excellent and it has to be good news for Bowen Basin communities and places like Mackay.
“The number one constraint of being able to realise that potential is the skills issue.”
The QRC boss has welcomed the moves by the Gillard Government to find a balance between training locals and allowing skilled migrants into Australia to fill the vacancies.
“We were pleased with the Federal Budget initiatives,” he said.
“A sensible balance between training up the local workforce, accelerating apprenticeships, more money for training and some easing up on facilitation of being able to bring in migrant labour, particularly for those really big projects.
“Hopefully the people of the Mackay region will understand that with projects there is a construction phase with a very high peak workforce and then there are the ongoing jobs.
“My vision is that we make sensible use of, for the short term construction phases, let’s use migrant labour sensibly to fill gaps there and let’s maximise then the permanent on-going jobs for locals, that is the happy mix and that is what we are aiming for,” Mr Roche said.
In the recent federal budget, treasurer Wayne Swan announced funding to speed up the completing apprenticeships and gaining qualifications. Education Queensland Trade Training Centre project officer Bob Baker told The Mercury offers of big money and ease of entering the resources sectors in other regions were taking young people away from the Bowen Basin and towards south-east and Western Australia.
“At the moment a lot of young people are actually going elsewhere for training as well and then are finding other opportunities in other places.,” he said.
“If they train elsewhere then the transition becomes very easy then for them to move to wherever the biggest money is.
“If we can have the opportunities here for them in Mackay, then they will stay here.
“As a region we are competing with the south-east corner and other major areas of interest like Western Australia, where there is more action, more services, and more resources for families.”
Baker said there needs to be more focus on developing Mackay’s tourism and infrastructure.