Survey identifies impact of skills shortages

Wednesday, 16 April, 2008

An Australian national survey assessing the impact of the skills shortage on the operations of water utilities has identified that the industry is facing an 8600 employee shortfall by 2017 at a time of increasing infrastructure development.

The report by The Infohrm Group is titled An Assessment of the Skills Shortage in Australia’s Urban Water Industry. Other major findings included a warning that almost 50%of the industry’s present workforce is aged 45 years or over, suggesting that by 2017 nearly 30% of the current workforce will be retired.

During the same period, demand for additional employees is expected to rise by over 7%. When combined with an anticipated 37% reduction in available labour, the study suggests that the industry will face a gap of over 44% of the existing workforce by 2017.

The research was commissioned by the Water Services Association of Australia (WSAA) to gain a better understanding of workforce supply and demand issues, especially as the industry prepares for a proposed $30 billion water infrastructure investment program in the next 5–10 years. It involved surveying 18 water utilities with a total headcount of 10,900, representing 56% of WSAA members’ total workforce.

“This study gives us, for the first time, an assessment of the extent of the skills shortage in the urban water utilities in the context of the workforce profile and the demands for skilled staff from other sections of the Australian economy. It provides the base knowledge from which we can build an effective response involving all sectors of the water industry,” WSAA executive director, Ross Young said.

“The WSAA survey was a proactive response to an important challenge. Armed with these results the water industry is now able to consider the best ways of addressing the changes to its workforce over the coming decade. It’s a very positive step that has resulted in the industry coming together to solve the problem. The report draws on Infohrm’s sector-wide workforce planning experience including banking, disability, transportation, utilities and statewide authorities, with planning for their future workforce skills requirements," Anastasia Ellerby, managing director, Infohrm, added.

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