Mackay is in the grips of a skills shortage
Mackay is in the grips of a skills shortage Contributed

Local worker shortage means mines must recruit elsewhere

SHOCK new data has revealed the Mackay region is unprepared for the next mining boom, with not enough skilled worker numbers to fill crucial job vacancies.

Department of Employment, Small Business and Training figures show 2277 fewer students completed VET courses in Central Queensland in the 2016-2017 financial year, despite signs two years ago the mining industry would recover.

Participation rates across all VET courses also fell by nine per cent following similar decreases in industry traineeships.

As the mining industry picks up across Central Queensland the absence of skilled workers can be felt.

Just last week there were 627 jobs available in the Mackay and Coalfields region in the mining, construction and engineering industries.

Resource Industry Network general manager Adrienne Rourke said the issue was a small component within the complexity of the industry's skills shortage. She said the issue came "back to ensuring you've got a suitable pool of workers here".

Ms Rourke said 2016 was "a bit of a balancing act", as there were limited opportunities in the industry.

"Industry was doing what it could to engage new workers," she said, adding that all levels of government should do more to attract skilled workers to the region "so there is a bigger pool to work with".

Last year job listing site, Seek, reported the mining industry had been in recovery mode since 2016, as the sector experienced a substantial increase in job ads.

And between May 2017 and May 2018, there was a 34 per cent increase in mining job listings.

However, the Central Queensland mining VET freshman class of 2016 was 533 students smaller than the previous year - a 17 per cent drop in class sizes.

Related courses, such as primary industries, transport, engineering, construction and automotive courses experienced similar decreases in course attendance.

The largest drop in VET student numbers was for Transport and Distribution, which fell by 43 per cent, as 832 fewer students enrolled.

Minister for Employment and Small Business Shannon Fentiman said the State Government introduced the Back to Work program in 2016, which has to date helped Central Queensland businesses take on more than 4500 apprentices and trainees.

She blamed $70 million in Federal Government funding cuts for the decrease in apprenticeships, and training.

She did not comment if more should have been done two years ago to prevent the current skills shortage.