Australia's mining and energy sector is facing a skills crisis as the industry struggles to onboard a new generation of young workers.
A new report from industry group Australian Resources and Energy Employer Association (AREEA) stated that the industry would need nearly 25,000 new workers over the next five years in order to meet demand from more than 100 new projects commencing over the same period.
AREEA chief executive Steve Knott AM said he had concerns the industry would not be able to fulfil this new demand for workers without “creative solutions and a coordinated response” from industry, government, unions and education providers.
“While we will always celebrate the strength of the industry - and the jobs and other benefits that come with increased project investment - given the significant skills shortages at present, many would look to these new workforce projections with some trepidation,” Knott said.
“Unless industry and government can find some creative solutions, the skills crisis facing not only the resources and energy industry but all sectors of the Australian economy, will persist for years to come.
“The industry is ready and willing to work with government, unions and other stakeholders on a myriad of initiatives, ranging from training and VET [vocational education and training] system reform to streamlining skilled migration processes.
"We must front up to this challenge or risk losing some of these long-term national opportunities."
The Gen Z 'roadblock'
Knott highlighted Australia’s trillion dollars of government debt and the mining and energy sector’s significant contribution to the federal budget, with company taxes and royalty payments currently amounting to $43 billion.
“Anyone who questions the importance of securing as much of this prospective resources and energy investment as possible, needs a serious reality check.” Knott said.
Is this line of argument and language likely to persuade Gen Z though?
Industry leaders said one of their biggest challenges when filling jobs was winning over younger generations - specifically Generation Z - who were currently leaving school and entering the workforce.
“The first roadblock to getting young people on board is a constant barrage on social media, which gives them a false impression of the industry and the opportunities that lie there,” AREEA’s head of policy and public relations, Tom Reid, told the ABC.
The sector may well be an easy target, but with the Juukan Gorge fiasco, executive salary uproar and bribery scandals fresh in the mind of Australia’s socially conscious youth, it’s probably going to take a lot more than a bit of good old-fashioned fiscal fear mongering to get Gen Z back on side.