Australian LNG industry joins the call for more skilled foreign workers

by Ray Clancy on April 21, 2011

in General Information

LNG industry score lack of skilled workers

Australia liquefied natural gas (LNG) industry is the latest business sector to warn that a shortage of skilled labor threatens its future and it needs more foreign workers.

An industry conference in Perth heard that skill shortages are one of the greatest threats to the sector and the stress is starting to show.

Don Voelte, chief executive of Woodside Petroleum went as far as suggesting that the shortage could cause cost and schedule blowouts on projects. He pointed out that Australia had never had more than two LNG mega projects being built at the same time but now there are four.

‘While these projects are at different stages of development, they are still competing for skills and resources. The constraints are becoming very obvious. If just a few of the proposed LNG projects proceed in the next five years, there is going to be heightened competition for people, with the potential to result in cost and schedule blowouts,’ he told the Australian Petroleum Production and Exploration Association’s (APPEA) conference.

Voelte said that while skilled Australians would be given first priority on projects, there was no denying that the industry would need more foreign workers. He called for more flexibility in the country’s visa system to help the industry employ overseas workers.

‘We need more flexibility bringing in foreign workers on 457 visas to fill short term labor gaps,’ he explained.

Western Australia state Premier Colin Barnett said he expected the industry to dovetail many construction projects to allow transfers of skilled labor and he expected greater labor mobility across Australia.

He said though short-term migration should allow for skilled people to be brought in, along with limited programmers to bring less skilled workers in to maintain mining camps and do catering.

APPEA chief executive Belinda Robinson said recently that the LNG industry has been hit hard by shortages in skills that affect their potential growth.

A number of leading company chairmen in different industries in Australia have expressed similar concerns and called on the government to increase the intake of skilled foreign workers to address skills shortages in a range of jobs.

BHP Billiton director Malcolm Broomhead has stated that the biggest risk in the economy right now is skills. He and others are waiting to hear what plans the Gillard government has in terms of visa applications and immigration numbers in the coming years.

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