Rail sector skills crisis looming

A fast-developing skilled labour crisis in the rail sector will deliver a substantial blow-out in project costs and delivery delays to rail projects in Australia and New Zealand over the next ten years, according to BIS Oxford Economics in a report commissioned by the Australasian Railways Association.
CEO Danny Broad said: “The report is a call to action to government and industry.
“Immediate corrective action to fill skills gaps with fit-for-purpose training is needed to avoid these blow-outs.
“Investment of over $100 billion in rail projects by Australian governments over the next ten years will be undermined by shortages of skilled labour that dramatically impact the construction of new rail systems, and our capacity to operate them,” Mr Broad said.
“The next ten years will herald a renaissance of rail in Australia – important urban passenger projects such as the Melbourne and Sydney Metros, Brisbane’s Cross River Rail, Perth’s Metronet and multiple light rail infrastructure and rolling stock investment as well as crucial freight projects such as Inland Rail, which will provide a direct freight link from Brisbane to Melbourne.
“Unless we address shortages due to market failure, attrition and unsuitable training arrangements, projects will blow out in terms of delivery and cost.
“Modelling shows that in 2023, the peak of the construction phase, we may have workforce gaps of up to 70,000 people,” he warned.
The report recommends the establishment of a high-level taskforce of government, industry, and education providers with a three-pronged focus:

  1. Facilitate the development and maintenance of an Australasian rail industry pipeline of rail projects to map skilled labour required across construction, manufacturing, operations and maintenance. The ANZIP pipeline, established by Infrastructure Partnerships Australia, which enjoys financial backing from both the Australian and NZ governments, should be adapted and refined for this purpose.
  2. Develop a National Rail Industry Skills Development Strategy to drive reform in education and training systems and practices that increase the availability of required skills, their productivity, transferability, and mobility while retaining a commitment to quality and safety.
  3. Boost awareness and attraction of rail careers. The need to attract skills and career aspirants to the rail industry is widely recognised. Industry has a significant responsibility in this regard. The taskforce should add its weight to initiatives such as establishing ‘branding partnerships’ with related industries across transport, mining and manufacturing.

The Australasian Railway Association engaged BIS Oxford Economics to undertake a workforce capability analysis for the rail industry based on planned and forecast rail infrastructure development in Australia and New Zealand over the next 10 years, with implications for a range of rail industry skills across construction, manufacturing, operations and maintenance.
Through expansive stakeholder and industry engagement and extensive data analytics, the report explores skills shortages over the coming decade, key threats to workforce capability, and what government and industry can do to respond to meet the challenges of delivering on the significant rail infrastructure and rolling stock investment.
The report can be found at www.ara.net.au/ara-skills-capability-study. The Australasian Railways Association represent more than 145 member organisations including passenger and freight operators; track owners and managers; suppliers, manufacturers, contractors and consultants. Members include listed and private rail-related companies, government agencies and franchisees.

Skills Formation Strategy for Queensland

This initiative aims to build the capacity of the transport and logistics industry to work together on common workforce issues in order to give greater support to its future growth.
The project will support the growth of the future T&L workforce in Queensland by working on issues that can only be addressed, or are best addressed, at an industry, rather than enterprise level.
The vision of this project for the industry is:
  1. To enhance the image of the Transport and Logistics sector as a valued career option and,
  2. To support the industry’s efforts at attracting, training and retaining a high quality workforce.
What’s been happening?
We have had a great response from industry over the past several months seeking involvement and offering support for the project. A steering committee was formed in March 2009, which subsequently decided that the four focus areas for the project over the next 15 months should be:
  1. Defining the sector.
  2. Image & awareness.
  3. Improving & recognising skills & training.
  4. Industry engagement.
How are we going to do this?
Dedicated working groups (WGs) have been established to address those key actions agreed upon by the Steering Committee in each of the project focus areas. These WGs will meet monthly and provide industry within Queensland a deeper engagement mechanism to get involved in the project. The WGs will also begin to address the many issues likely to have an impact on the sustainability of our workforce in this state.
A small sample of the issues the WGs are currently addressing:
  • Reviewing the ‘T&L’ logo and brand.
  • Developing a communications and culture strategy to assist industry to better understand and utilise existing industry specific training and communicate the main funding options attached to the training packages.
  • Better mechanisms for Queensland’s T&L industry to speak as one voice on workforce issues.
  • Improved strategies to communicate to both the existing workforce, and also to people outside the industry, the excellent career paths and opportunities available within T&L.
What about regional industry?
Over the coming month, the Steering Committee is developing a communications plan to engage the wider T&L community in Queensland. A roadshow to the major regional T&L hubs is being planned for September/October 2009. This will include hosting an evening of industry presentations, networking opportunities and social activities.
Expressions of interest from all communities will be sought to engage in this project at various levels over the next 15 months and help the WGs and Steering Committee to develop workforce sustainability strategies that best support T&L throughout all of Queensland.
Please contact Gary Pearson, project manager, Skills Formation Strategy Transport & Logistics, on 0414 587 582 or email sfs@sclaa.com.au.

Women wanted to work in logistics

attendants at ALC's women mentoring program

With Australia’s skills shortage hitting hard the transport sector, the Queensland division of the Australian Logistics Council (ALC) has launched a mentoring program for women to attract female employees to the industry once typified as male-dominant. 
Industry leaders are raising their concerns over the ageing workforce of the transport and logistics sector, saying meeting future freight demands will become impossible without injecting new employees.
The program, My mentor: challenging women to step up, is to be piloted by the ALC and 22 women from various T&L organisations, aiming to foster a partnership with females already in the industry and pave the way for more to follow.
Principal consultant to the Australian Diversity Council Maureen Frank, who created the program, said there is proof of the connection between business performance and companies that recruit, develop and advance women.
“Companies who break down gender barriers and embrace diversity go on to be more successful because of increased corporate culture and improved employee performance,” she said.
“The key is not to turn around overnight and start hiring women, but rather to start by creating an inclusive and supportive work environment that is focussed on developing and leveraging diversity.”
ALC program director Melinda Buker said the women in the pilot represent a diverse range of organisations and show women can fill any role in the transport and logistics sector.
“The enthusiasm these organisations are demonstrating by encouraging their female staff to develop their skills and excel will benefit women, not just in their own companies, but the T&L industry as a whole,” Ms Buker said.

“Women may be the missing link that could save the T&L industry.”

Following the Queensland-based trial, the ALC will examine the opportunity to roll out the program nationwide.

The program consists of a DVD, CD and comprehensive workbook.

For more information on the program, visit www.emberin.com.


Get LINC-ed to the $60 billion T&L industry

Following its success in South Australia, a web-based initiative to attract people to the freight and logistics industry has been launched in Queensland.

The South Australian Freight Council (SAFC) has announced that the Queensland version of its popular Logistics Information and Navigation Centre (LINC) went live this week at www.the-linc.com.au.

The announcement coincided with the relaunch of the revamped South Australian portal, with similar versions currently being developed for Tasmania and Western Australia.

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