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How can we solve the infrastructure industry's skill shortage problem?

How can we solve the infrastructure industry's skill shortage problem?

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The government is injecting billions of dollars into the infrastructure industry to help economic recovery but there is a speed bump that will slow down its efforts.

The infrastructure industry has long faced skill shortages and gaps. As the government focuses on the infrastructure industry to recover the economy, businesses find themselves scrambling to get their hands on skilled talent to work on high profile projects.

Current projects Fuse is recruiting for include the Level Crossing Removal Project and the Suburban Road Upgrade where we’ve found clients have predominantly requested for talent to fill senior positions. We’ve also found that many clients are finding it difficult to source talent to meet demands driven by the land development boom.


Causes of the skill shortage

The nature of the industry is somewhat unfavorable in itself. Employment in the industry is often determined by the duration of a project. Once a project is completed, some employees are no longer needed and are forced to find the next project for work. Limitations include:

  • New entrants not being able to find employment due to limited skills

  • Employees not being able to retain what they’ve learnt if left unemployed for a long period after completion of project

  • Apprentices and trainees unable to complete their qualifications

  • Exacerbation of gaps in senior roles where there is lack of high-quality talent to promote into these roles

Infrastructure jobs often require talent with specific skill sets, experience and qualifications. The jobs are often performed in high-risk environments and require high safety standards. Meanwhile, requirements differ from project to project. Where a candidate is highly qualified for one role, they may lack skills or knowledge to perform well in another, seemingly similar, role.

To fill roles where there is lack of talent, businesses have often relied on migrant talent to fill vacancies. Due to the pandemic, however, this stream of talent has come to a halt. Skill shortages may worsen if borders remain closed for a long period of time.


Impacts on the industry and its businesses

Skill shortages and gaps pose issues for the industry; including project delays, unfinished projects and projects not being completed to a high standard.

Unfinished and delayed projects also indirectly affect the government’s efforts to recover the economy. If projects are finishing later or not being completed at all, money going into these projects is ultimately wasted.

Businesses have also tried to find their own solutions to the skill shortage. We’re finding that managers and their personnel have been required to work longer hours to make up for the shortage. Many employees compromise time with their family and friends and become overworked and burnt out. Burn out leads to higher levels of absenteeism which further exacerbates the skill shortage issue.

Another common solution is to increase wages in the hopes of retaining talent. This, however, is not sustainable and causes cost overruns on projects.

Sustainable solutions

While it is virtually impossible to change the project-based nature of the industry, there are actions that could be taken to solve the skill shortage issue. Although, the industry will require a joint effort from both the public and private sectors.

Programs and initiatives such as Victoria’s Big Build Graduate Program, Training for the Future and NSW Regional Growth Development Corporation’s Jobs and Skills Strategy already exist to help the industry solve the skill shortage problem. Fuse Recruitment have also found the benefits of hiring grads in a skill short market and have established processes to source high-quality candidates for our customers.

Schools and universities should push STEM projects, particularly in rural areas of Australia where many infrastructure projects are located, to help introduce young talent into the industry.

In the meantime, businesses should find ways to retain talent they already have. As stated previously, the common route is to increase wages. This is unsustainable and there are many other substitutes including offering flexible work hours and covering work expenses. We talk more about things businesses can do to help retain their employees here.

Where businesses need to source labour, Fuse Recruitment is equipped to provide full site talent solutions. Our industry specialists partner with clients to understand their specific needs and have the knowledge to understand the nature of their projects. This gives us the ability to source top talent who possess the essential skills and competencies required to complete projects to a high standard.


Why partner with us?

In a skill short industry, we take the work out of our client’s hands without compromising on the skills required to spot a quality candidate. Fuse also has a deep understanding of the history and experience of our existing talent pool which we make available to our clients.

Our intentions are to invest in the development of the industries which we specialise in. Partnering with us will help us provide a string of projects available to our talent pool. While this seems one-sided, the benefits to both candidates and our clients include:

  • Increased certainty for candidates – candidates have access to ongoing skills development which then enhances their career opportunities

  • Decreased risk for our clients – clients can be sure that candidates have experience and skills to suit their needs

  • Increased overall capability of the industry through a more skilled and productive workforce

If you’re interested in partnering with us to solve your talent requirements and to support the industry, fill out the form below and we’ll be in contact with you shortly.​

About the Author

Andrew Chalkley
Senior Recruitment Consultant

​Andrew joins the Fuse team bringing 3 years of Civil Infrastructure recruitment experience with him.

Andrew has been fortunate to work on some of the Mega Projects Australia has to offer, most recently with the Western Program Alliance (Level Crossing Removal) and Snow Hydro 2.0 Project. He has been fortunate enough to work with not only large Tier one and two civil contractors, but also to assist in growing start-up civil companies that are now very successful Tier 3 businesses.

With a love for sport, especially cricket and football, Andrew has been armed with great leadership, team, communication and decision-making skills. He is able to effectively engage with all personality and character types, regardless of age, socioeconomic status and authority.

Andrew's passion is both helping candidates succeed and further their careers and assisting clients business growth by sourcing them the top talent in the industry.

If you'd like to work with Andrew, you can call him on 0417 868 821 or, to check out his job opportunities, click here.