21 November 2012

WA still in need of skilled workers

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Despite constant reports of Australia's mining boom being all but finished, Western Australia's Chamber of Mineral and Energy claims the state where the boom is based will need 100,000 more skilled workers in Australia within the next decade.

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Western Australia's Chamber of Mineral and Energy claims the state is still in need of skilled workers - particularly engineers.

Australia's economy avoided recession during the global financial crisis thanks to a Chinese-fuelled mining and resources industry. Such was the demand for skilled workers and manpower to work the rapidly expanding industry that thousands of people applied for an Australia visa to earn incredibly high wage rates in almost all occupation categories.

However, with the global economy beginning to recover and Chinese expansion beginning to slow, demand for Australia's abundant resources has also started to slow - prompting some to call it the 'end' of the mining boom.

While demand has slowed and new projects have been put on hold, the Western Australian Chamber of Minerals and Energy (WACME) has been quick to remind prospective migrants that there are still many existing projects which are in need of skilled workers - particularly engineers - and the demand is growing.

Bruce Campbell-Fraser of the WACME estimates there to be over 100,000 people currently employed within the sector, a figure which will need double in the next decade.

"[The skills shortage is]  across a raft of disciplines, but mining engineers, process engineers and chemical engineers are in pretty high demand, as are geologists and metallurgists," said Mr Campbell-Fraser.

In order to combat the skills shortage, many Australian universities have begun offering more places on engineering courses but Mr Campbell-Fraser says the industry is in such a transitional stage, experience is highly prized by employers.

"An experienced person can always assist them to deliver that project in a shorter time frame and closer to budget than say a fresh graduate can.

"So while an increase in graduate numbers plays its role, it's a real shortage of skilled engineers and qualified engineers with relevant experience on major projects."

Leonie Cotton, casework manager at the Australian Visa Bureau, says the media has misconstrued the progress of the mining and resource industry in Australia, leading some to believe opportunities are becoming harder to find.

"The supposed 'end of the mining boom' in Western Australia has made for extremely newsworthy coverage after all the industry did for the country's economy during the global financial crisis," said Ms Cotton.

"However, what in reality has been a slowdown which is, by definition, part of a boom cycle has been sensationalised by the media and risks exacerbating an already growing skills shortage.

"If the thousands of people who were considering an Australia visa application believe that the industry is in decline and decide against it, then the industry will eventually begin to suffer."


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