PERTH (miningweekly.com) – The Chamber of Minerals and Energy (CME) of Western Australia has estimated that an additional 8 000 skilled workers would be needed for the regions resources sector over the next 12 to 18 months, in order to meet demand.
The preliminary forecast modeling assumes the continuation of Covid-related restrictions, including interstate travel, would remain in place through to the end of 2020 and foreshadows a considerable increase in competition for key skills, such as traditional trades and experienced technicians, front line supervisors and maintainers, and safety and medical support services.
CME CEO Paul Everingham said the Western Australian resources sector has reaffirmed its commitment to employing locally, where possible, as it looks ahead to these identified additional skilling needs to underpin the post-Covid-19 economic recovery.
“In response to Covid-19, companies moved early and decisively to relocate thousands of their employees and contractors in critical roles to Western Australia, with companies offering incentive packages to make the move permanent,” he said.
“The skills migration to the West brought on by Covid-19 has been nothing short of phenomenal. The vast majority of Western Australia’s interstate fly-in, fly-out (FIFO) workforce of around 5 000 have made the move west, some individually, others with their families at very short notice prior to the state border closure in April.
“Many of our members have also been recruiting for hundreds of skilled roles from within Western Australia over the past few months. These roles are a mixture of regional and Perth based, including both residential and fly-in fly-out.
“We’re already seeing high demand in traditional trades and experienced technicians, front line supervisors and maintainers such as heavy diesel fitters, and professional engineers, geologists metallurgists and technology specialists. There is also increased demand for safety, emergency and medical support services in the content of the ongoing Covid-19 response; safety rightly remains our first priority.”
The resources sector is among the Western Australia’s major employers, with a workforce of approximately 120 000 across, with several thousands of additional workers relying indirectly on the sector for employment, across the more than 14 000 Western Australia businesses that the sector engages annually.
CME’s forecast workforce modeling shows an additional 8 049 workers will be required in Western Australia to meet peak recovery demand through to the end of 2020 and into 2021, assuming current Covid-related restrictions remain in place until the end of 2020.
“Our preliminary forecast modeling highlights the potential for more than 8 000 new job opportunities across the resources sector. It also foreshadows a considerable heating up of competition for key skills in a safe and productive way,” Everingham said.
He said incentive packages offered by companies to attract their interstate employees to move permanently to Western Australia had included relocation and housing assistance, which compliments the state government’s housing construction incentive.
“We also acknowledge that making the decision to relocate across the Nullarbor is a major life-changing decision, and in many instances workers haven’t been able to get home yet to sit around their kitchen table with their family and friends to make such a life-changing decision.”
Everingham estimates that only about 1% to 2% of the workforce still need to be sourced from outside of Western Australia under the current Covid-19 operating environment.
“Exceptional reasons still exist for sourcing skills outside of Western Australia, which cannot be simply substituted locally. These roles are often safety-critical and highly technical, and require unique skills or years of experience, often with a particular type of machinery. The risks associated with this type of work require extensive on the job experience to assure the highest standards of safety, including in major hazard scenarios.”
Everingham said the resources sector also remained committed to skills development for current and future workers in the industry, citing major Rio Tinto’s commitment to up-skilling out-of-work apprentices across various industries by covering their fees for a course in automation, allowing for the enrolment of up to 200 apprentices who have had their apprenticeships suspended or cancelled due to Covid-19, and major BHP welcoming 125 apprentices and trainees into its ranks as part of a new national training program that will help to bolster Australia’s skills base and create new career pathways into the mining sector.
Fortescue has also continued to run its Vocational Training and Employment Centre program through the Covid-19 period resulting in 21 Aboriginal trainees securing full-time employment, joining 900 former graduates.