Infrastructure boom drives skills and labour shortage

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A construction boom across multiple Australian states will widen a skills and labour gap, with the nation already short of more than 200,000 infrastructure workers.

The latest snapshot by Infrastructure Australia shows some regional areas in NSW, the Northern Territory and South Australia will experience significant investment.

It found labour continued to be the top capacity restraint, with an expected shortage of 229,000 full-time infrastructure workers as of October.

The fields of engineering and science will continue to experience the biggest shortfall until the mid-2024.

Chief of policy and research Steve Brogan said there were regional communities that would record an annual increase of 75 per cent in infrastructure investment.

“A shortage of workers presents a serious risk to the on-time and on-budget delivery of projects in regional Australia,” he said.

“While broad skills and workforce reforms are under way nationally, we need to urgently boost the pipeline of workers into the sector and develop a national infrastructure workforce strategy to ensure communities reap the benefits of these investments sooner rather than later.”

Opposition infrastructure spokeswoman Bridget McKenzie said under the government, labour shortages were getting worse and construction costs were going up.

“It beggars belief what a tin ear the Albanese government has when it comes to the shortage of tradies needed to build the houses, roads and energy infrastructure needed in Australia,” she said.

The report found Australia’s major infrastructure pipeline had “slightly smoothed” over the last year, with projected spending to be more evenly distributed across the next four years.

The government in November announced a funding overhaul, where the Commonwealth will contribute to major infrastructure projects in a 50-50 split with states and territories.

Major projects were previously entirely funded by the federal government or the cost was shared 80-20.

Proactive pipeline management, boosting materials supply and workforce, and improving construction productivity are the main areas forming the 14 recommendations made by Infrastructure Australia.


Tess Ikonomou
(Australian Associated Press)


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