Rail industry suffers from skills shortage

NEW rail projects in Queensland’s burgeoning Galilee basin will worsen an existing critical skills shortage in the rail construction and operation industry, according to an industry group.
Rail industry suffers from skills shortage Rail industry suffers from skills shortage Rail industry suffers from skills shortage Rail industry suffers from skills shortage Rail industry suffers from skills shortage

Paul Daly, courtesy Rail Skills Australasia

Lou Caruana

Major railway projects are being planned for the next five years where construction work will total $11.3 billion, and require an additional workforce of at least 1,800 people in rail operational roles and at least 6,000 in rail construction, a skills audit by peak rail industry body Rail Skills Australasia revealed.

There are worrying gaps in skills and staffing within the industry which are expected to increase dramatically over the next 12 months, RSA chief executive officer Paul Daly said.

“The audit has shown the demand for staff and skills in the industry are expected to be amongst the highest in the nation in coming years,” he said.

“This can be attributed to the commencement of a number of new rail projects and increased demand for rail passengers and freight services in Queensland.

“However, rail firms operating in the state are already identifying skills shortages this year, which will snowball into an ever greater problem by the time we need to fill these rail jobs in the coming months.”

Skills Queensland provided $120,000 to Rail Skills Australasia to develop the audit.

Skills Queensland chief executive Rod Camm said creating an industry demand driven skills system for Queensland required a comprehensive knowledge of the workforce development needs of key industry sectors in the Queensland economy.

“The Rail Skills Audit developed a clear picture of the demands of the rail sector and its important role in supporting the operations and growth of key industries in Queensland, most notably resources and agriculture,” he said.

“This audit provides the sector with an important baseline measure of its workforce and the foundation to implement strategic industry-led approaches to meet its skills needs.”

To meet some of the immediate skills required in the rail sector, Skills Queensland is investing $300,000 from its Strategic Investment Fund to be matched by employers to facilitate critical existing worker training identified through the Skills Audit.

Daly said following the results of the audit, RSA is taking specific action to tackle the skills shortfall and develop key strategies in ensuring much-needed jobs are filled.

“RSA has begun a number of industry-led initiatives to boost rail profile within Australia,” Daly said.

“We are developing stronger links with schools, as well as graduate and mentoring programs to groom young people in our country to develop skills that can meet the needs of the rail industry.

“Clearly there is a pressing need for longer-term reinvestment in the rail industry to prevent skills shortages in the next five years. The report has allowed us to identify key implications and trends in the rail industry and develop strategies to guard against them.”