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Labour and Skills Challenges

Skills shortages are characterised by a lack of individuals possessing the necessary skills, qualifications and expertise to meet industry demands. Shortages can arise from various factors with the consequences far-reaching, leading to project delays, reduced productivity, increased costs, and a decline in the quality of products and services. They also create a competitive job market, driving up wages and exacerbating talent poaching.


The Access Trades sector, like many others, is grappling with significant challenges stemming from labour shortages. One of the most pressing issues is the shortage of skilled individuals, particularly experienced crane operators, which hampers productivity and leads to project delays. Without enough qualified professionals, the industry's growth potential is hindered, making it difficult to meet the increasing demands for services.

Retention of skilled workers is another major concern. At a local level, there are pay disparities and suggestions of ‘poaching’ across industries that require similar skill sets, posing challenges in retaining skilled workers. This aspect is becoming a growing concern for leaders in the sector, creating an environment where businesses that can afford to, distort market rates and impacting business’, particularly smaller ones, ability to maintain financial viability. As one participant expresses “to get good staff you have to pay above and beyond.”

Further to this, wage increases, particularly in response to minimum wage policies, put a strain on businesses. Balancing the need for fair compensation for employees with the ability to generate sufficient revenue becomes increasingly difficult in an environment of rising living costs and wage demands. Organisations that can afford to pay their workers above the local market rates face a significant wage gap on an international scale, particularly in comparison to countries like Australia where “you can’t compete with other countries that offer nearly twice the amount that you could offer.” There is a consensus within the sector that a substantial portion of the departing workforce consists of “young talent”.

The industry also faces the pressing issue of an aging workforce. Many experienced workers reach a point where they can no longer perform physically demanding tasks, creating a need for alternative career pathways. However, limited opportunities for older professionals to utilise their expertise can lead to financial instability or a reluctance to retire. As one participant highlighted “… when you get to that age, you have no career pathway.... you then see the aged workforce not wanting to put their tools down and their bodies are suffering and it’s sad to see because they need the money and there’s no career opportunity for them when they’ve worked so hard pretty much their whole life,…. you can’t put the tools down because then you don’t earn the money.” It is crucial to develop strategies that leverage the wisdom and experience of the aging workforce by offering roles such as trainers and mentors, allowing them to pass on their knowledge to the next generation while remaining financially stable.

To ensure the long-term sustainability of the Access Trades sector, effective succession planning and knowledge transfer strategies are vital. Leveraging the experience and wisdom of the aging workforce through pathways that allow them to become trainers and mentors ensures the preservation and transfer of valuable skills. Additionally, offering better compensation for their training efforts can motivate the aging workforce to actively participate in knowledge transfer, ensuring a smooth transition to the next generation.

The role of migrant workers cannot be overlooked in meeting the labour and skill demands of the sector. Skilled migrant workers bring valuable expertise, specialised knowledge, and cultural diversity, enhancing the sectors capabilities and contributing to its long-term success. However, regulatory considerations, training programmes, and funding challenges hinder their integration. There is a trend among large companies towards Verification of Competency (VOC) which involves on-site assessments to confirm workers' ability to perform their trained tasks. Employers are placing greater emphasis on regular inspections of the quality of work rather than just relying on background training. The migrant workforce, especially those from the Philippines are actively participating in these VOC processes.

Moreover, the sector faces challenges related to funding for migrant workers. In particular, scaffolding, an industry heavily reliant on migrant labour, is not included in the government's sector agreement for immigration. This exclusion places unnecessary financial strain on employers, who are required to cover the costs of qualifications for their migrant workers. Inclusion of scaffolding in sector agreements and equitable access to funding are necessary to support the growth and development of the industry, and sector.

Lastly, the sector struggles with limited training options. Specifically, the crane industry lacks diverse training programmes and courses, making it challenging to attract and develop new talent. Expanding and diversifying training opportunities is essential to bridge the skills gap and provide individuals with the necessary expertise to contribute effectively to the industry. Collaboration between companies, industry associations, and educational institutions is vital to address this issue and ensure a continuous supply of skilled workers.

  • Shortage of Skilled Individuals

  • Competition for Skilled Workers Locally

  • Wage Disparity Internationally

  • Succession Planning and Knowledge Transfer

  • Role of Migrant Workers

  • Funding Challenges for Migrant Workers

  • Limited Training Options

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