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.

  • Certainly not! There are a lot of Australian Mining Engineers currently out of work in Aus. The mines are having a field day with hiring in tech services at the moment with multiple highly skilled applicants for their positions.
    I have also encountered many mining engineers who came out to Aus on a 457 visa, have lost their jobs and are now facing the prospect of having to go home.
    This article should be titled 'Does Australia Need to Export its Mining Engineers?'

  • We are already doing that on 457 visa,s and we have plenty engineers looking for work that are Australians forget that idea anyway for now.

  • It all depends on what qualification is needed. If you count truck drivers as mining engineers then there is no need. But if you need highly specialised experts then Australia should import them. With a 457 visa you would not get them.

    • Frank I am talking about the engineers with qualifications I don,t consider truck drivers engineers you think I am silly and do not know who is who in zoo.We have in West Australia engineers in big numbers looking for work.I am in this industry and have been in it along time we do not need them that is overseas engineers at the moment or in the near future but keep the doors open if it changes.457 SHOULD BE SCRAPED the mining industry is on it,s biggest downturn for years. Bring more people here and take Australian jobs we have thousands on the dole including engineers they are not needed at the moment. The 457 visa was to fill a need not take Australian jobs.

    • I do not agree with you. Yes, there is a downturn in Australian mining because Australia is struggling to compete against other countries.There is no gain in productivity and the costs are to high. Australia needs new ideas and the best experts with the best technology available. If you do not have those experts in Australia you have to import them.

  • Ian you are spot on the money. We don't need to import. Frank your wrong!

  • Why import skilled engineers when we have so many very skilled resource sector professional staff currently available in Australia?
    We provide exclusive engineering service to the mining sector and are ready and willing to Jump in where needed. Please let me know if you need engineering and we'll assist. See my profile for details.

  • After all the redundancies in 2012 and 2013 I don't think Australia needs to import, Australia needs to find ways to reemploy all this mining professional and Operators that are looking for new opportunities after massive cut cost during FY13 and FY14.

  • Iron Ore is the only market that is doing a bit better but cross the other commodities, COAL, SSM, Base Metals… still cutting people and making business analysis to find ways to reduce cost.

    • David thats true but coal is still on record exports but your correct they are not making money and are laying off Australian mining engineers and others every where so why import engineers.Australia as a immigration intake that is based on need not greed the 457 is not part of the need it is part of the greed.

  • Ian, you do not get the point. If the companies do not want to employ foreign engineers, then they will not come from abroad. Australia needs engineers to improve the "state of the art" business. We need to implement technologies which help to increase productivity and reduce costs. And I mean long-term cost reductions and not short-term actions by only retrenching people. Unfortunately long-term cost reduction means investments. I wonder if the mining industry will do this?

  • It's a tough enough industry at the moment for engineers here in Australia, why should we make it harder by importing engineering specialists from overseas? Granted they all have something to contribute, but if this trend is overdone, then we are not providing Australian engineers with many chances to gain experience and develop and enhance their knowledge and skills. We would be taking these roles away from bright and enthusiastic Aussie engineers with untapped potential. I'm a mining engineer and would, along with my fellow engineers, love opportunities to learn and develop and contribute in my homeland's mining industry. We're all entitled to our own opinion and it definitely all comes back to perception and our own experiences, but this is the way I see it.

  • Thomas we are not talking a few Engineers the flood gates have been open for a while. If we need to import experts that can improve industry that are not in Australia in small numbers lets do that as that will create more work in the long run. But that is not the case just now we have mining engineers in large numbers that are not experts and most stay here after there first job finishers.This is how it works a company convinces the government that they need to import staff as they cannot find these people in Australia so they import them.After there first job is over they can go where ever they want if that company as permission to hire them which is very easy to get. After they have done there time here they can become Australian residents and can stay for ever this makes the normal migrants intake look silly as these migrants pay for everything and wait there turn to come hers while the 457 gets it on a plate but it suits the company the 457 is still cheaper.This intake of mining engineers is about cheaper cost not about experts while being cheaper is fine for these companies it as along term affect on our Australian workforce and taxpayers.

  • I would tend to agree that it appears to be more of a finance-based decision for companies to import mining engineers to Australia, rather than one based on enhancing expertise within work teams…but hey. Fair enough. They're businesses; trying to optimise the cost-benefit ratio. Business is cold and it's there to make money for its stakeholders. Just seems a little short-sighted when we are giving away opportunities for promising Aussie mining engineers. If we're questioning whether we have the sufficiency of expertise that can manage mega mining projects, then to me, that's a clear indication that we're not investing enough in our local engineers to get them to a point where they can handle these projects. We're taking the easy option; the 'quick-fix'.

    • As an "outsider" looking in with a wry smile, my perspective is no, but it does need to import training, expertise and a continuing professional development culture to [paraphrasing Emma] provide Australian engineers with more chances to gain experience and develop and enhance their knowledge and skills and not take away from bright and enthusiastic Aussie engineers. To tap the full potential of what you already have. Neither should Aussie mining engineers who love opportunities to learn and develop and contribute be silenced or told that "we have been doing it this way for 30 years". Quite. People like Emma are Australia's best hope. You do not need to import the like, you need to take the Emma's and set them free to push the frontiers and to question and re-evaluate what you are doing.

    • Thanks Gary – that's a bloody lovely wrap-up..!
      Some of the greatest 'teachers' in my working life have been (to brutally put it) 'imported'. We're lucky in Australia to have a good blend. I feel fortunate every time I'm given an opportunity to learn and take responsibility. I guess if you're passionate about something you just give it everything you've got and take in as much as you can.

  • I think we are are all eluding to the same thing which is continuous improvement in our industry and I can understand that there are more favourable ways which meets each of our own personal mandates but in essence we have an industry to be proud of and by keeping its value as our prime concern must be the way forward. It seems that the 457 visa application process requires more robust governance around it so businesses must evidence that all searches for such expertise has been exhausted within Australia before looking externally. Mentoring people like Emma is my main concentration but to get our capability and competency recognised as being the worlds best but as we sometimes need an " outside the box" mentality and philosophy to provide for such.

    • I like this idea Thomas. Diversity is definitely important and should be upheld along with safety and production. Everyone can bring something new and contribute. I guess I just see a fair few people brought in to Australia as mining engineers/consultants and geologists and so on, and a number of them have never even seen a drill pattern design. So the 'imported' employees are not always with a high level of expertise. In fact, one particular consultant mining engineer designed a drill pattern without taking into account stemming loader space requirements, a safety berm (albeit temporary) or even cutting off on the correct echelon direction for firing (the nonel tie-in for this design was exceptionally poor, the whole thing being 'forward echelon'-ed from a control line contoured along the face being one of the main issues…)

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