Global giant BHP Billiton has predicted Australia’s resources industry will need an additional 170,000 workers if it is to meet the demands of the mining boom over the next five years.
BHP said 90,000 new permanent jobs will be created in Australia by 2016, and new temporary positions will peak at 80,000 by 2014.
The official government predictions put forth by a federal taskforce are much more conservative, and in the climate of a so-called ‘jobs bonanza’, the Minister for Resources, Martin Ferguson, said the shortage of skilled and semi-skilled labour must be expertly managed.
The disparity between jobs predictions is a sign of the growing risk of skills shortages, yet Ferguson said, ''It's not a bad problem to have as a government … but also one we have to manage because we've got to get the labour both domestically and internationally.''
To meet the unprecedented demand, mining companies have already begun a massive recruitment
drive in historically low-performing economic regions.
Ferguson also said the government is trying to encourage people in economically weak areas, such as tourism hot spots, to sign up as fly-in fly-out workers in the mining sector.
Due to the isolated location of many mining job sites, recruiters have said they are likely to use more foreign workers. Ferguson added that enterprise migration
agreements announced in the last federal budget will soon allow resources project recruiters to source foreign temporary labour more easily.
Despite the apparent upbeat outlook from the federal government, Lincoln Crawley, managing director of ManpowerGroup Australia & New Zealand, said many applicants wrongly assume the skills shortage means it will be easy for them to get a job.
“The fact is we have a talent mismatch which is causing these shortages. There are still a lot of job seekers around, but they just don’t have the skills needed by companies facing the shortages,” Crawley said.