Report identifies need for industry upskilling

According to SkillsDMC’s 2015 Environmental Scan, the quarrying industry produced an estimated 178 million tonnes of construction materials in 2013–14, an increase of 4.3 per cent compared to the previous year. The report stated that over the past decade, overall construction material quarrying had risen by 36 per cent due to an increase in construction activity but less favourable conditions were forecast for the coming years.

“The outlook for quarry production is for a slight decline in the period to 2017–18 as the key construction markets go through a soft patch,” the report stated. “Residential construction and non-residential building activity is each expected to slow through this period but should be offset to some extent by improved prospects for road construction.”

Investment in new quarrying capacity over the next five years was also expected to slow, which could reduce demand for quarry products. “Over the near term, construction is likely to be hindered by governments at all levels remaining in cost-cutting mode in order to pay off debt while retaining their credit ratings, directly impacting on demand for quarry materials,” the report noted. “Further ahead, lower levels of privately funded mining investment will also affect the need for related infrastructure, such as railways and harbours, which will also weigh down on quarry products demand.”

It was suggested that the slow investment outlook would impact upon new quarry development, along with urban encroachment. “The competition for land means that new quarries will need to be located in more remote areas, which are further away from their target markets. This will add even more pressure on the costs of construction and transportation,” the report predicted.

Lengthy government approval and rising compliance costs were also expected to be a challenge for greenfield development.

The report was slightly more positive in its forecast for the quarrying industry’s employment levels, which it stated had been – and were likely to continue to be – “quite stable”, with an increase anticipated later in the decade ahead of a new round of construction activity.

Skills evolution

For the broader resources and infrastructure industries, the report advised that the skills landscape would be changing.

“As mining and civil construction activity eases in the coming years, the expanded operating capacity of the mining industry will see production and output rise considerably over the next five years,” it explained. “This transition within the resources and infrastructure industry will require existing workers to upskill and cross-skill as the composition of roles change and industry faces shortfalls in labour capability over the next decade.”

The report added that a demographic change within the existing workforce would likely lead to the emergence of skills gaps over this period, and that new recruits would be required to meet future industry requirements.

SkillsDMC is the organisation operating the national industry skills council for the resources and infrastructure industry. It is contracted by the Federal Government to produce an annual Environmental Scan report that analyses the changes in the global economic climate and how they impact upon the industries’ skills pools. The Environmental Scan provides information and forecasts about current and future skilling needs, as well as on challenges and opportunities for the quarrying, coal mining, metalliferous mining, drilling and civil infrastructure industries.

The full report is available at www.skillsdmc.com.au

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