Queensland leaders forced to focus on workers

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Queensland’s resources sector has rated skilled employee retention as a top priority, just 12 months after it was bottom of the list for most industry leaders, a new report shows.

The State of the Sector report for the June quarter from the Queensland Resources Council (QRC) found while a ‘social licence to operate’ and ‘uncertain and/or poor regulation’ had plateaued in importance, skilled retention leapt ahead to number one on the chief executive officer (CEO) sentiment index.

This was despite Queensland resources jobs jumping 68 per cent between May 2016 and May 2021, reaching almost 85,000 roles.

The report quoted one CEO as prioritising digital adoption as critical to worker retention.

“We must keep up with advancements in technology, automation, new equipment and ways of working,” the report stated.

“The importance of digital technology and automation will increase.”

To address this, the report found more than one quarter (28 per cent) of CEOs said they were considering funding or undertaking programs to grow student interest in STEM fields.

The importance of addressing the skills shortage and concurrently overcoming the challenges posed by COVID-19 were made clear in the reported production volumes and costs.

While production volumes remained 19 per cent above when QRC records began in 2006, the March 2021 quarter (latest available data) suffered the third consecutive quarterly decline, owing to restrictions and the skills shortage.

A joint statement in the report from QRC full-member CEOs said COVID-19 had impacted the sector in a number of ways.

“COVID is impacting labour availability which is impacting production,” the statement read.

“The limitation on international travel also prevents some influx of skills from overseas.

“A number of our employees travel across the QLD/NSW border and are impacted negatively when the borders are closed.”

In second place on the sentiment index was social licence to operate, as regulations around sustainability continue to play on the minds of industry leaders.

“The uncertainty around climate change policies and geopolitical actions means that the market could be quite volatile,” the joint statement read.

“The ability to access capital and insurance is being severely impacted by lack of coherent positions on reliable energy sources from all levels of government.

“This will likely impact decision making on expansion/extension projects in our business.”

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