Where are all the workers?

A SHORTAGE of workers is threatening Central Queensland's long-term prosperity.

The region is in the grip of a crisis of unfilled vacancies, with hundreds of jobs going begging and employers desperate to find people with the skills they need, says a report to Rockhampton Regional Council today.

The news comes as a recruitment drive is launched to find 25 new correctional centre staff at Rockhampton's prison.

There are seemingly opportunities everywhere, but a survey of 247 employers in Capricornia found civil engineers and construction managers are in most demand.

According to the Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations research, 36 % of vacancies in the construction industry are unfilled.

And what it calls a very high proportion of recent vacancies for technicians and trades workers (22.5%) are also unfilled.

The situation could be worse still. The survey was conducted in December, prior to the floods, which created significant additional work in both Rockhampton and Emerald.

And with tens of thousands of new jobs being created in the construction of new mines and LNG plants in the region, employers will find it increasingly hard to recruit and retain their staff.

The survey found that across all sectors recruitment activity was strong and employers were experiencing some difficulty finding applicants. And while labourers, machinery operators and drivers were in good supply, researchers say demand is likely to increase.

Mary Carroll, chief executive of Capricorn Tourism and Economic Development, said she was confident the Rockhampton region would continue to be able to fill its vacancies by recruiting skilled people from abroad, Australia's capital cities and southern states.

“Whilst there are skills shortages in some sectors, the future looks bright for CQ because it is an attractive place for people to relocate,” she said.

“There are major employment opportunities here.”

Professor John Rolfe of CQUniversity said it was no surprise that employment gaps were emerging in Central Queensland as this next boom in the resources sector gathered pace.

“With the coming developments in the gas industry, the ongoing expansion of the coal industry, and the major infrastructure projects that are needed to service them, the employment gaps are set to get much bigger.

“It is notable that the resources sector requires a very well-trained and professional workforce across the wide range of activities, so this means that it is not easy to simply transfer someone from a similar industry across to that sector,” he said.

“There are three main ways of addressing the emerging gaps: training local people to take up the jobs, attracting new workforce to locate in Central Queensland, and using fly-in fly-out to access bigger population centres. Each of these is being used to some extent, but I think the largest growth is likely to be in fly-in fly-out operations.

“This is because this is the quickest way of tapping into available labour sources, and it helps to spread some of the mining income across Australia. I expect that there will be more fly-in fly-out operations from areas such as Cairns and the Sunshine Coast over the next couple of years as the downturn in the tourism sector forces people to look elsewhere for jobs.

“Rockhampton will have to be proactive to maintain a high share of workforce in the mining sector. Two key strategies are to encourage people to take extra training and to make sure the region is attractive.”

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