Lack of skilled workers hits Qld’s resources sector

Click here for photo of QRC Chief Executive Ian Macfarlane.

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The number one threat to the future viability of Queensland’s resources sector has been identified, and it’s not what you’d think.

Mining CEOs’ biggest concern right now is a shortage of skilled workers to fill Queensland jobs, according to the Queensland Resources Council’s (QRC) latest State of the Sector report.

QRC Chief Executive Ian Macfarlane said the report for the June 2021 quarter released today shows a combination of Covid-related border restrictions, less skilled migration and interstate competition for workers has created a perfect storm of labour shortages at a time of continued growth across the sector.

He said the Minerals Council of Australia’s latest Commodity Demand Outlook 2030report had forecast increased demand for key Queensland commodities out to 2030.

“This is supported by Queensland Treasury‘s most recent forward estimates that show coal export volumes are predicted to rise by 23 percent out to 2024-25,” Mr Macfarlane said.

“Treasury is also anticipating a broadening of the resources sector due to increasing demand for Queensland’s critical minerals and rare earths used in the production of emerging technologies.”

Mr Macfarlane said mining leaders have become increasingly concerned over the past 12 months about attracting and retaining enough skilled employees to support industry growth, with the issue jumping from number 12 on the list to number one in the latest CEO sentiment survey.

“The number of jobs in our sector in Queensland has increased by more than two-thirds over the past five years to reach a record high of almost 85,000 earlier this year,” he said.

“This growth in resources jobs, which has surged since Covid, is around six times the relative growth experienced across the rest of Queensland’s workforce over the same five-year period.

“Looking forward, jobs growth over the next five years is likely to continue due to increasing global demand for traditional resources like coal, base metals and gas plus the growing demand for new economy minerals such as cobalt, graphite, vanadium and rare earths which are being used to build everything from microchips to electric vehicles.

“This demand will create a growing and increasingly diverse pipeline of jobs for Queenslanders, with the National Skills Commission projecting employment in our sector will grow by a further 8 percent to 2025.”

According to the latest SEEK employment data, there are currently more than 1,300 resources jobs on offer in Queensland, with over 70 percent paying upwards of $100,000 per year.

Mr Macfarlane said mining CEOs identified as their second biggest concern the challenges associated with demonstrating a company’s social licence to operate, followed by problems dealing with uncertain or poor government regulation.

He said the State Government’s 30-year Queensland Resources Industry Development Plan, currently in the planning phase, would be vital to identify opportunities for growth in a thriving resources sector.

“Industry is looking forward to providing feedback on a draft of the plan in the coming weeks and month,” he said.

Other key points:

  • Almost 80% of QRC member CEOs consider digital initiatives – such as remote sensing for mine site rehabilitation and remote operating practices to help lower costs, increase safety and reduce waste – are important to their organisation’s success.
  • More than 70% said they expect some of the in-demand skills at their operations to change, with 11% saying they will change significantly in the future.
  • Almost 80% said demand for Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) graduates will increase over the next five years.
  • More than one quarter (28%) said they’re considering funding or undertaking programs to increase student interest in STEM fields.
  • More than three quarters (78%) of CEOs said industry must work with government and other stakeholders to develop new strategies for securing the sector’s talent pipeline.
  • Almost 90% of CEOs agreed that whole-of-industry funding and support for career pathway programs such as the QRC’s Queensland Minerals and Energy Academy (QMEA) are an effective way to address skills shortages. The QMEA has partnered with almost 90 schools to encourage students into STEM and VET careers.
  • The QMEA has partnered with almost 90 schools to encourage students into STEM and VET careers. According to its 2020 Outcomes Report, 25% of QMEA students in post-school study chose engineering and related technologies compared to just 15% from non-QMEA students. The QMEA plans to expand to 100 Qld secondary schools by 2023.

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