However, the downside to this impending renewedeconomic activity is Australia?s skilled labour shortage.We are now in a period where more people retire from the workforce than enter it. Coupled with an ageing population and declining birth rate, we are asking ourselves, ?Where does the skilled labour come from?? For the quarrying industry, a large proportion of whose workforce is grey matter, this is particularly apt. The stakes are even higher, as the industry indirectly finds itself in competition with the mining industry for younger skilled workers who may be lured by the lucrative contracts and flexible work arrangements offered in the mining sector.
So what is the answer? The employment of skilled migrants is a possibility but both our major political parties seem fixated on reducing migration, even though the attitude of Australian business is that we should be bringing in more skilled migrants. The outsourcing of work offshore is also causing headaches for businesses and politicians alike because employers are being accused of denying opportunities for young local workers and apprentices. As I write, the Western Australian Barnett Government is resisting lobbying from the WA Jobs from WA Resources campaign (comprising an unusual alliance of the Australian Steel Institute and the Australian Metal Workers Union) to legislate for the retention of resource fabrication and manufacturing jobs in WA.
So how does the quarrying industry address the skills shortage? It is generally agreed that the key to a successful workforce, in the recruitment of new, younger workers or the retention of mature workers, is through education and training. You will recruit and retain your workers if you can offer them opportunities for professional development and provide incentives for them to assume greater responsibilities within your organisation. Education and training can now play a pivotal role at both ends of one?s career ? whether that be an impressionable, enthusiastic young person looking for his or her first break or a mature, outspoken veteran who is keen to continue working part time.
In my time with Quarry, I have interviewed newly minted quarry supervisors or managers who have combined work and study, sometimes at late stages in their careers, but with a zest and dedication not always displayed by their Gen Y and Gen Z counterparts. It reinforces that no matter how old or wise you are, life is a learning experience. At the other end of the spectrum, it is encouraging to read about a young person like Mitch Gimm (see page 46) who may in years to come become a stalwart of the construction materials industry. No matter how frustrating and fickle you may find some members of the younger generation to be, Mitch sets an example that young people can aspire to.
Education and training is about engaging skilled workers, encouraging and fostering the best out of them and providing incentives for them to grow into their roles and most importantly stay with your organisation. What is encouraging for small to medium quarry operators is that there are plenty of opportunities available for their workers to undertake further education, whether they be certificates, diplomas or short courses.
As you will see in the Education showcase in this issue, there are Registered Training Organisations offering quarry operators opportunities nationally to educate and train their workers. There are also avenues for employers to recruit new workers and be eligible for Federal Government subsidies.
While there are significant challenges ahead for most industries in recruiting and retaining workers, it is clear if quarry businesses are smart and savvy, they can snare the workers they need and retain the skills of their most talented employees.