Construction skills shortages a big issue, again

Executive general manager for SouthTech – Clarius Group’s engineering and building services division – Phil Desmet said skills shortages were one of the biggest issue facing businesses and governments involved in large infrastructure projects.“After hitting the bottom in October, the market has been gradually climbing ever since. There is now a readiness to make hiring decisions whereas several months ago companies in this sector were preparing for opportunities and holding back on making these hiring decisions,” Desmet said.“SouthTech is seeing two emerging trends as we come out of the GFC. New jobs are mainly filled by people moving from one organisation to another. “This is partly due to the fact that it is bonus time of the year and many do not receive bonuses in their current positions, prompting them to move on. This movement is particularly strong at the senior end of $100,000 per annum plus. “Second, there is certainly a stronger tendency towards permanency among new hires. This is a usual trend at the end of an economic downturn. “Companies initially hire temporary staff as they are unsure about how the market will move forward. They then move these new hires into permanent positions before taking on new permanent hires.”The skills index for construction tradespersons rose by a strong 1.4% in the March quarter, moving from 98.4 to 99.8 – a score of 100 indicates equal tension between supply and demand.The skills index for building and engineering professionals remained steady, while the index for associate professionals such as research, design engineers and surveyors moved from 100 to 100.5. Meanwhile, associated skills occupations experienced continued upsurges with metal tradespersons up 4.1 to 105.1 and electronics and electrical tradespersons up from 96.4 to 97.0.Desmet said although the index remained in the balanced range, the large movement between quarters indicated a strengthening of demand conditions that would likely continue over the next few quarters. He noted one of the main drivers for the increased labour demand in infrastructure related to the stimulus packages which are now coming online across the country, in particular railway and road projects. “This is likely to lead to shortages in engineering professionals in Victoria, Queensland and Western Australia. However, New South Wales remains against the trend with several local projects still on hold due to a lack of funding,” he said.“The main occupation groups of skill shortages include signal engineers, highway design engineers as well as principal tunnel and structure engineers.”

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