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Australia – Construction job numbers set to plummet in the coming years

19 December 2013

A new report says 78,000 jobs will be lost by 2018 as the nation’s resource sector makes it move from construction to production. From a peak of 85,819 positions this year, the construction arm of the resources sector is expected to drop to just 7,700 jobs in 2018, reports ferret.com.au.

According to the 2013 resources skills study by the Australian Workforce and Productivity Agency (AWPA), professional and specialist jobs will continue to rise, with trade and labouring positions set to shrink.

However the drop in construction jobs will be offset by a rise of nearly 40,000 resources operations jobs led by the oil and gas sector where employment is expected to increase by +57% from 38,943 this year to 61,212 in 2018. Mining operations jobs are forecast to grow during that time from 236,690 this year to 254,260.

Philip Bullock, Chair of AWPA , said the resource sector was facing a skills shortage for high-level specialist operators with wide experience: “As our resource sector transitions to an operations phase and we embark on major liquefied natural gas and coal seam has projects, resources companies will face challenges in recruiting and retaining workers with the required specialist operational skills and experience.”

The report asserts that companies will have difficulties sourcing the right domestic workers and warned that this could impact productivity and safety in the sector.

To combat this AWPA recommends the introduction of pilot transitional training and apprenticeship programs, industry support for career advice and industry input for the development of science and math skills in the workforce.

Mr Bullock commented: ''Global competition for skilled workers is increasing and with a long lead time required to develop critical skills, industry, government and education and training providers have an opportunity now to work together to develop responses to meet these skills challenges. Workforce planning needs to proceed quickly to ensure domestic workers are available to fill time-critical shortages in the second half of this decade."

Chair of AWPA’s reference group, Keith Spence, said that while overseas workers would be required to fill experience gaps in the short-term: “There is going to be a commitment to training Australians to fill these positions for the longer term".

Mr Spence said the report identified opportunities for industry to retain and retrain trade workers to take up operation roles as the sector’s construction phase shifts into operations: “Having people who are multi-skilled is highly valuable, so those trade workers that are transitioning out of construction into operations that can have these supplementary skills can become extremely valuable and attractive employees in the future”

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