A new report says Australia may need to import engineers and other workers in the resources sector due to a looming shortage of domestic expertise.
According to the report, released by the Australian Workforce and Productivity Agency (AWPA), the oil and gas sectors in particular face an imminent shortage of skilled workers unless greater measures are taken by both industry and government to remedy the lack of domestic expertise.
AWPA's Resources Sector Skills Needs 2013 Report says that despite the end of the opening phase of the mining boom and a "highly volatile" time ahead for investment and construction, employment in the resources sector is nonetheless set to rise as mining projects commence production and export, and jobs on oil and gas projects surge.
While the report projects that resources construction will see job numbers plunge from 83,324 in 2014 to 7,708 in 2018, employment in mining production is set to more than compensate for the shortfall with an expected seven per cent gain from 2013 to 2018 to hit 254,260.
Oil and gas jobs are also expected to surge, rising by more than 50 per cent in five years from nearly 39,000 workers in 2013 to 61,212 in 2018.
According to report, however, many of the plum positions which will be soon on offer in Australia's resources sector, including specialist or supervisory roles, will need to be filled by overseas workers because they are "difficult to source" domestically.
The report notes in particular a lack of mining engineers and drillers in Australia, as well as chemical, gas, petroleum and power generation plant operators.
AWPA board member Keith Spence has called for government and industry to work together with educators to devise a national strategy for supplying the oil and gas industries with locally trained expertise.
Speaking to the ABC, Spence said that the oil and gas industries needed to pursue a "more co-ordinated approach," and "work together rather than independently."
Specific measures advocated by AWPA include the introduction of new university courses and apprenticeship schemes for oil and gas jobs, following the lead taken by Western Australia with its energy apprenticeship program; as well as increases in post graduate training in automated technology, which is increasingly being taken up by key players in the mining industry.