Labour shortage looms for railway industry

Infohrm, the Australian global leader in workforce reporting, analysis, planning and benchmarking solutions, has delivered a workforce planning assessment for the Australasian Railway Association (ARA) that identifies the likelihood of substantial labour shortages.

The report estimates that 40 percent of the current rail workforce will need to be replaced within the next five years.

The study lists the ageing workforce, an Australia-wide scarcity of qualified labour, a shortage of rail-experienced staff and a lack of interest in rail as a career as major contributors to the shortage.

The research suggests that to merely maintain current headcount in operations roles over the next five years will still result in employee deficits of between 2,291 and 3,282.

Train drivers will account for almost one-third of the shortage.

The low number of graduate engineers is highlighted as a particular concern given the increasing demand which is being driven by growing scheduled maintenance and repair work, in addition to major network upgrades and rising demand for services across both passenger and freight transportation.

The shortages are highest across two critical engineering roles – Electrical and Signalling (E&S) Engineers and Project Managers.

The study conservatively predicts a total industry engineering staff shortfall of between 1,260 and 1,700 in five years time.

This translates into a need to hire up to 340 engineers every year for the next five years, a figure that is unlikely to be sustainable.

Shortages are also predicted for trade and trade-equivalent qualifications, with shortages of up to 4,000 staff expected within five years.

Brian Nye, chief executive officer of the ARA says everyone has heard anecdotal comment on industry employment but the aim of the exercise was to provide real data and estimates into the future.

“Sometimes, individual companies can’t address all the issues and this was a means of providing information that we could then work together on as an industry,” he says.

The research identifies six major risks to the industry’s growth and employment needs:

  1. Meeting the demand for new, skilled people to address growth requirements and to replace retirees or others leaving the industry;
  2. The limited industry approach to skills development which has restricted training effectiveness;
  3. The need for cultural change to make the industry more attractive to a wider pool of potential employees;
  4. The loss of large volumes of industry and technical knowledge that will occur as a result of retirement, resignation and growth in the industry in the next five years.
  5. The growing challenge of filling workforce shortages in regional and remote areas.
  6. The need for full industry buy-in to develop strategies that will address the risks.

The study also includes a framework of strategies to address the risks.

This is further broken down into an action plan detailing recommended industry-wide, company-specific and government-related activities for 2008 and beyond.

Anastasia Ellerby, Managing Director, Infohrm, says the ARA is to be congratulated for confronting the issues head-on.

“The tight labour market is an issue for all employers but the rail industry has the added problem that many of its employees are required to undergo long training or apprenticeships before becoming qualified,” Ellerby says.

“The fact that the entire industry is working on the problem is an extremely positive and healthy sign.”

About the Australasian Railway Association

The ARA is a member-based organisation that represents the interests of over 300 companies in the rail sector in Australia and New Zealand.

Its purpose is to create an environment that will permit the industry to prosper.

To achieve this, the ARA focuses on two main areas: industry safety and standards; and human resources issues such as attracting and retaining employees, and skills development.

The industry employs tens of thousands of people across Australia and New Zealand, and is responsible for contributing $7.7 billion annually to Australia’s gross domestic product.

About Infohrm Group

The Infohrm Group is the global leader in on-demand workforce reporting, workforce planning, and human capital analytics solutions.

With over 30 years of experience, and a strong customer base consisting of Fortune 500 and 1000 clients, Infohrm has paved the way for organisations to measure the impact of human capital initiatives and drive business results.

The Infohrm solutions couple a leading edge on-demand technology platform with strategic consulting services; to focus on the analysis of data to help organisations make informed decisions around human capital practices.

Infohrm is headquartered in Brisbane, with offices in Europe and North America.

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