Skills shortage on the horizon

Economics analyst Peter Kenyon told MINING DAILY that a return to boom mining conditions will mean another skills shortage in WA.

This week’s news that Western Australia’s resources-driven economy is the best performing in the country brings with it the sobering reality of a likely return to the skills shortage that plagued the previous boom, an economic analyst told MINING DAILY.

According to the professor of economic policy at Perth’s Curtin University Peter Kenyon, the State has not had time since the end of the last boom in 2008 to build up its skilled labour numbers.

He said that when the mining sector once again starts to lure people in with large salaries it will be felt across other industries.

“Once you get higher wages, that draws people into the mining sector and away from elsewhere,” he said.

“That means we will end up with is real skill shortages in Perth, and even in the rest of Australia.”

Despite the problem of a skills shortage being nothing new, Kenyon believes that it is not an easy problem for either the Federal or state governments to solve.

The two main solutions to the problem are either to increase skilled immigration, which is the traditional short-term solution, or implement more training for the workforce, which is a process of several years.

“It is too easy for arm chair critics like me to say the governments should do more; spend more on education, more on training, more on universities,” Kenyon said.

“All of that is well and good, but the political reality of it is that there is only so much any one government can do in a single election cycle, let alone any one year.

“There is only so much the governments can do in terms of the budget.”

While there is no definite solution, Kenyon said that long term thinking is the best option but the short term will most likely be handled as it has in the past.

“Importing labour is the traditional Australian answer,” he said.

“The usual way of dealing with it is by increasing immigration and that is what will happen again.”

To keep up to date with Australian Mining, subscribe to our free email newsletters delivered straight to your inbox. Click here.