Infrastructure sector faces major workforce hurdles, industry think tank warns

Photo by Scott Blake on Unsplash.

Infrastructure Partnerships Australia has warned of a major workforce hurdle in the delivery of nation’s infrastructure pipeline, requiring clear action from governments.

The infrastructure industry independent think tank has partnered with Deloitte to expand the capability of Australia & New Zealand Infrastructure Pipeline (ANZIP) to create a clear, real time picture of major infrastructure expenditure and labour demand.

Infrastructure Partnerships Australia Chief Executive Adrian Dwyer said the forecast data had revealed a major workforce hurdle.

“It is no secret that we’re facing a record infrastructure pipeline, which is only set to grow over the coming years,” Mr Dwyer said.

“While this is welcome for the sector and the economy more broadly, growing pains are inevitable. We are already seeing some acute shortage of high-end skills, such as tunnelling and signalling engineers and project directors, emerging in the delivery of this multi-decade pipeline.”

Mr Dwyer said the shortage of high-end skills were already evident in areas such as tunnelling, signalling engineers and project directors.

“With $450 billion worth of upcoming winnable opportunities in the major project market, this workforce challenge will only intensify,” he said.

In October, Infrastructure Australia published its first Infrastructure Market Capacity report, which forecasted that major public infrastructure activity will approximately double over the next three years, and that at its peak, demand for skills would be 48 per cent higher than supply.

Infrastructure Partnerships Australia’s forecasts paint a similar – if not more dire – picture.

“Between July 2022 and October 2024, the infrastructure sector will need to grow its total workforce by nearly 43.4 per cent to meet the demands of the coming pipeline,” Mr Dwyer said.

“Unless we can meet the coming workforce demand – or at the very least improve construction productivity – we’ll start to see delays in delivery, with taxpayers footing the bill through higher project costs.”

To mitigate the impacts, Infrastructure Partnerships Australia is calling on the industry and state governments to invest in professional training.

“State governments and industry have an important role to play in ensuring major infrastructure projects deliver a strong skills legacy for the next generation of projects, through targeted investment in training and development,” said Mr Dwyer.

Infrastructure Partnerships Australia is also calling on the Federal Government to reform the skilled migration program and include a specific visa sub-class for infrastructure.

“The Federal Government can also help bridge the workforce gaps through much needed reforms to the skilled migration program.

“That’s why the Federal Government must develop a specific visa sub-class for infrastructure, better matched to project timeframes and targeted at acutely in-demand skills, to provide longer-term certainty to industry and state and territory governments.

“The Federal Government will also need to continue working with industry and its state and territory counterparts to ensure the Skilled Migration Occupation List remains aligned to the sector’s evolving needs,” said Mr Dwyer.

Infrastructure Partnerships Australia is the nation’s infrastructure think tank, providing independent policy research focused on excellence in social and economic infrastructure.

ANZIP’s new interactive forecasting tools can be accessed here.



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