Migrants must fill labour gap in mining
From: The Australian
July 21, 2010 12:00AM
A SHORTAGE of 35,800 tradespeople expected in the resources sector by 2015 will probably be almost completely filled by migrant labour.
This is because miners and energy producers have to deal with the effects of not employing as many apprentices as would be expected in an industry its size.
In its final report released late last week, the Gillard government's National Resources Sector Employment Taskforce has recommended an overhaul of temporary migration to make it easier for companies to draw on overseas labour, especially during construction.
Industry sources yesterday said the expected shortage had not started to bite, but that there was already evidence of it emerging in areas such as welders and pipefitters.
The taskforce report said there were few options to deal with the short-term shortage other than migration.
“The main short-term options for increasing supply of skills include recruiting from the unemployed and through temporary or permanent migration,” said the report from the taskforce, which is chaired by federal Labor MP Gary Gray.
National Institute of Labour Studies research fellow Sue Richardson, who has done previous skills shortage research for the Australian Minerals Council, said it was fair to assume the vast majority of the trades jobs would be filled by migrants.
“The migrant solution is so easy and from the employer point of view much preferable to going into the complicated kind of participation programs (for unemployed) that require work with government and social welfare agencies and with people who are not, to use their language, job-ready,” Professor Richardson said.
Australia's biggest employers in the sector, BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto, have already warned that skills shortages will return to levels seen in 2007 during the previous boom.
Both employ big workforces in Western Australia, where they will be competing with big liquefied natural gas projects for workers.
BHP chief Marius Kloppers has warned a “massive talent gap” will return to the industry.
Rio chief Tom Albanese recently said even WA did not realise how much of a boom it had coming.
To limit the migrant numbers needed in the longer term, the taskforce said the industry should significantly increase the amount of apprentices it employed.
The industry argues that current apprentice training models do not accommodate the requirements of the resources sector.
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