The latest Clarius skills index study, undertaken by KPMG Econtech, found while employers required staff to have the latest technical skillsets and knowledge, most of the knowledge and upskilling was acquired onsite.
It estimated 290,000 engineers and people in related fields were nearing retirement and warned new recruits needed to be trained now to close a potential skills gap.
The index found while the gap between supply and demand fell for building, engineering and tradespeople, it was due to a slowdown of activity.
It said the high cost of contract labour and uncertainty about the impact of the carbon tax appeared to have had an impact on financing decisions surrounding building and engineering projects.
However, it found metal tradespersons were falling behind on skills, with a score in September of 112.2, compared to a score of 100 which represents equal tension between skills supply and demand.
It had created a shortfall of 14,500 metal tradespeople throughout the country, the largest shortage since December 2008.
Clarius said the gap between skills supply and skills demand needed to be addressed but it expected the gap to be maintained in the short-term despite rising demand for skilled metal tradespeople.
It said regardless of a slowdown in infrastructure spending, the mining boom remained a driver for skills shortages and intense competition for the best talent.
Meanwhile, wage pressures are expected to lift wages by 5% in the next 6-12 months, particularly in mining and site-based roles due to mining expansion programs.