Western Australia's mining industry calls for foreign workers to fill "skills shortage"

Source: Xinhua| 2018-12-18 14:35:29|Editor: Chengcheng
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SYDNEY, Dec. 18 (Xinhua) -- Western Australia's (WA) mining and resources sector is in the midst of a "skills shortage," Chamber of Minerals and Energy of WA Chief Executive Paul Everingham told Xinhua on Tuesday.

Industry experts have been calling on the state government to ease restrictions to allow more foreign workers to fill the gap.

With over 50 billion U.S. dollars worth of new projects set to go ahead over the next few years, Everingham said, "there are general signs in the economy that demand for a relatively wide range of occupations is heating up."

"In part, this is due to recent announcements from the resources sector regarding new projects at Koodaideri, South Flank, Eliwana and the raft of lithium projects," he said.

In 2017, Premier of Western Australia Mark McGowan abolished the state's Regional Sponsored Migration Scheme and cut the skilled migration occupation list from 178 professions to just 18.

Over the past 12 months, however, positions advertised across the state's mining industry have shot up 21.4 percent, according to figures from DFP Recruitment's November job index, which has left many big name players searching for a solution.

While vital roles for metal fitters, diesel mechanics, welders, auto electricians and truck drivers are already in high demand, with new mine sites being developed, jobs vacancies in building and construction areas are also set to skyrocket.

"There is simply not the horsepower within Australia itself to meet demand," DFP Recruitment Chief Executive Robert Van Stokrom told local media recently.

Unlike Australia's mining boom in the 2000s which saw vast numbers of workers from the country's east coast make their way west, at the moment labour from the eastern states is now tied up with "between five to 10 years of work" in the infrastructure sector.

"This changes things substantially from the last cycle and will have an impact on the availability for skills in Western Australia over the short to medium term," Everingham said.

While the Chamber of Minerals and Energy is currently working on an education strategy to boost job training at universities and vocational centers, a submission by the Minerals Council of Australia to the Senate Select Committee on the Future of Workers found that university completions from 2017 to 2020 are expected to decline by 81 percent for mining engineers.

During the same period, however, labour demand is expected to decline by only 13.

"Addressing emerging skill pressures is a shared responsibility," Everingham said.

According to Chamber of Commerce and Industry WA Chief Executive Chris Rodwell, "If businesses cannot find the right skills locally they need to be able to bring them in from overseas or the WA economy will suffer."