Australia labour shortage update

17 March 2006


A heavy duty diesel fitter is the most needed employee in the country, commanding a salary from $150,000, according to the head of one of the largest employers of tradesmen in Australia, Phil Smart.

Engineers, accountants, electrical estimators, draftsmen and bakers are also in high demand in all parts of the country, particularly regional areas.

The managing director of the Brisbane-based Workpac said diesel fitters easily bring in $150,000-plus as long as they were prepared to fly in and fly out of jobs at remote locations, mostly in the mining sector.

"The most important thing about the skills shortage is to understand that it is a Western world shortage and likely to be there for some time to come – it is not a trend and we will be in a skills shortage for the foreseeable future which will be at least 10 years," Mr Smart said.

The current shortage has forced an increasingly large number of companies to recruit overseas with contracting firms looking as far afield as Ireland to bring in engineers.

A brief roadmap of where the shortages are worst in the state by recruitment firm Nayler Business Solutions reveals that engineering is one of the hardest roles to fill.

Nayler, who interviews about 15,000 candidates a year, points out that engineering technical sales roles are most needed in central and north Queensland.

Drafting and design engineers are lacking in mechanical and petrochemical fields in Brisbane while accountants, particularly financial and management accountants, are needed throughout the state.

Nayler managing director Eric Clementson said in the construction sector contractors were hard to find, particularly administrators or two to five year graduates, sought in Brisbane, the Gold Coast and Sunshine Coast.

"There is a world shortage and a number of countries are spending billions of dollars to try and get people back. In Australia we have about 8000 to 9000 expats working overseas so it is no wonder we have a skills shortage back home," he said.

In the electrical sector, engineers in the power generation market, from transmission to distribution are keenly sought in the greater Brisbane area while electrical estimators (both commercial and industrial) are in demand on the Gold Coast.

Mr Clementson said quality candidates for electrical estimators were almost impossible to source in rural areas.

Technical sales personnel were wanted in northern Queensland, Townsville and Cairns while in the building products sector, technical sales roles were needed in Brisbane, central and north Queensland.

Designers, especially drafting within the timber and steel industries, were needed state-wide while architectural sales and various other specification sales staff were in big demand in the southeast of the state, the Gold and Sunshine coasts and in Brisbane.

One of the lesser known trades, bakers, is also in high demand with local operators Brumby's being forced to close a few regional stores last year because they could not source bakers.

Brumby's chief Michael Sherlock was forced to travel to Vietnam to recruit quality bakers, currently paying about $40,000 a year in salary to the imported staff.

"We just were not able to get the staff," Sherlock said