Australia’s infrastructure workforce needs to grow by 127 per cent


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A new report from Infrastructure Australia is warning of massive workforce shortages jeopardising delivery of infrastructure projects.

The annual Infrastructure Market Capacity report identifies key trends in public infrastructure investment, and analyses market capacity constraints that could inhibit delivery of the major public infrastructure pipeline.

The 2023 Market Capacity Report includes 14 recommendations for the Australian Government to act in partnership with state and territory governments and industry to improve the demand-supply balance, and ultimately the long-term sustainability of the construction sector.

The report finds that Australia’s infrastructure workforce will need to grow by 127 per cent to meet demand. It is the third year that Infrastructure Australia has reported significant labour shortages.

Key points:

Major public infrastructure spend is now valued at $230 billion over the five years from 2022—23 to 2026—27.

While this represents a slight 4% increase from last year, the updated outlook shows a 10% drop in the highest peak of expenditure across those five years as well as a shifting of investments into later years. This indicates that governments have taken positive steps to actively manage the demand-supply gap and create longer term certainty. Energy sector investment is expected to grow at around four times current activity levels.

Regional demand hotspots will create labour gaps. Regions across New South Wales, Queensland, and the Northern Territory will experience extraordinary growth in the three years from 2024—25, with investment up to three times higher than the three years prior in some regions.

A shortage of 229,000 full-time infrastructure workers is predicted as of October 2023, with shortages expected in all occupational groups.

Engineers and scientists will continue to experience the largest of all shortages until mid-2024. Trades and labour shortages are growing at the fastest rate and will remain high until 2025.

While Engineers continue to suffer the largest of all occupational shortages, yet in 2021, 47% of qualified migrant engineers were actively seeking an engineering job. Likely barriers to employment include a lack of local experience and professional network, as well as reluctance by business to employ skilled migrant workers.

The Australian Government, in partnership with state and territory governments, should place more qualified migrant engineers in engineering jobs, by working with industry and employers to identify actions to overcome barriers preventing businesses from employing onshore skilled migrants, including
women migrants.

34% of sector engineers, scientists, and architects leave their occupation group within three years. This increases to almost 50% after five years – 34% of these leave the construction industry altogether – the highest rate for any occupation group. Retention initiatives should prioritise engineers, as the group of professionals in highest demand.

Source: © Copyright, Commonwealth of Australia

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