Planning and Executing Workforce Development Strategies


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In this Q&A, Georgina Davis, Workforce Planning Manager for Energy Skills Queensland discusses how to successfully deploy workforce planning during a skills shortage and managing overseas talent. Questions she answers include:
BHPs CEO has stated – and it is known – that the mining industry faces a massive talent gap – how do you truly identify you have a skills shortage?
How can you actually deploy workforce planning when there is a skills
We’ve seen a lot of overseas talent management in the mining sector in recent years – will this continue?

For more information contact us on @MiningIQ or visit or you can call us on +61 2 9229 1000. Or you can email us on

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Planning and Executing Workforce Development Strategies

  1. 1. Planning and Executing Workforce Development Strategies during a Skills ShortageQ&A with Georgina Davis, Workforce Planning Manager for EnergySkills Queensland, the Centre of Excellence for Strategic Industry Workforce Development for the Energy and Telecommunications Industry Workforce Planning in Mining 2011BHPs CEO has stated – and it is known – that the mining industry faces amassive talent gap – how do you truly identify you have a skills shortage?The mining and utilities sectors, like others, are already experiencing a skillsshortage and the renewed demand and increasing skills vacancies will exacerbatethis issue with businesses experiencing project and service impacts such asincreasing labour costs and delays. Indicators of skills shortages include: • Ongoing recruitment difficulties highlighted through increased vacancy rates, unfilled vacancies, employment of applicants who do not meet of the advertised job requirements, and rising recruitment costs. DEEWR’s ‘Survey of Employer’s Recruitment Experiences in State Capital Cities’ for example, which compares the severity of recruitment difficulties between State capital cities (March 2010) showed that Brisbane had fewer vacancies remaining unfilled in the six months prior to the survey (4.4 percent) than was the case for any other capital city (the all city average was 7.3 percent). Employers in Brisbane received more applicants and more suitable applicants per vacancy than was the case in any other capital city. Although there was an average of 19 applicants for every one vacancy, of which only a quarter of applicants on average were rated as suitable for the job they had applied for. With employers citing a lack of work experience as the most common reason for applicant unsuitability, followed by insufficient technical skills or expertise. • Difficulties in retaining skilled, quality individuals. Add to these issues a high replacement demand across many sectors and the workforce risks are evident. Australia has an aging workforce and with the current pension age of 65 years old and increasing life expectancy, the Federal Government has already implemented a structure for increasing the pension age to 67 years by July 2023. However, many of the more physical jobs, particularly in the technical and trades professions, will still experience lower retirement ages. Occupational detachment through the loss of skilled workers, particularly tradespersons to other occupations, together with the aging demographic are the significant contributors to the high level of replacement demand seen 1
  2. 2. across the energy, telecommunications and construction industries amongst others. These losses were further exacerbated by the increasing cancellation rate of apprenticeships and large numbers failing to complete their apprenticeships. For example, there has been a steady decline of electrotechnology apprentices over the past three years (2.3 percent fall in 2010 from 2009), coupled with the number of new commencements for electrotechnology training programs falling by over 21 percent in 2010 from the previous year. Completion numbers also fell by over 36 percent from the previous year. ESQ’s ongoing research indicates that there will be a major shortage of professionals and paraprofessionals in the engineering, electrotechnology and construction trades, estimating that the energy industry alone will need 20,000 extra apprentices over the next five years. • Increasing wage costs. Many of 2010’s recruitment surveys found that demand by selected professionals, including engineers and construction personnel, was increasing salaries. Ambit Engineering Recruitment’s Engineering Survey for example, which tracks approximately 80 job titles in Western Australia’s mining, oil and gas sectors, identified pay increases of around 30 percent during 2010 in high demand roles such as Project Control Managers. This fact has also been identified within the ABS Labour Cost Index, which clearly shows that the cost of labour across the mining, construction and utility service industries within Queensland has grown at a greater than average rate for the past ten years. Higher labour costs are also going to be compounded by recruitment difficulties fuelled by unprecedented levels of planned construction projects expected to commence over the next 24 months; including the emerging coal seam gas/liquefied natural gas (CSG/LNG) sector.How can you actually deploy workforce planning when there is a skillsshortage?ESQ views workforce planning as a strategic planning process. The internal factorswhich influence current and future workforce needs are directly related to operationaland project decisions. The workforce planning process identifies the existingworkforce, the demand for future workforce based on strategic decisions, andanalyses the supply of labour available to the organisation or sector; based on aregional, state, national or international basis. It is essential that individualcompanies are fully aware of their workforce requirements over both the short andlonger term. The identification of workforce requirements early on allows a companyto identify possible priority job roles (such as the ‘mission critical’ and ‘hard to filljobs’) as well as potential skills shortages.Therefore the workforce plan only provides an insight on essentially what you have,what you need and when you need it – it is not something which is deployed.However a Workforce Plan does allow an organisation to then develop and deploy arange of Workforce Development Strategies (or an Industry Action Plan) to managethe identified risks and work towards a sustainable and suitably skilled workforce forthe duration of a project or service delivery. 2
  3. 3. Workforce Development Strategies may include employing apprentices, introducingtraineeships, developing and implementing specific training and education programsfor upskilling existing staff, targeted recruitment of interstate and internationalmigrants or setting up a best practice model for recruitment. Complimentarystrategies could include marketing the organisation (or sector) as the employer offirst choice by differentiating themselves from the competition, for example throughtheir environmental or ethical credentials. The deployment of such strategiesalongside ‘work-life-balance’ opportunities for individuals must also be considered.These items are particularly important to small and medium sized companies, ororganisations with fixed salary structures that are be unable to directly compete withthe remuneration packages being offered by competing organisations and industrysectors.We’ve seen a lot of overseas talent management in the mining sector in recentyears – will this continue?There have been recent changes to the skilled migration program in order to bettermeet the future skills requirements of Australia. Prior to February 2010, theDepartment of Immigration and Citizenship applied the Migration Occupations indemand List (MODL) to immigration applications. The MODL was rescinded on 8February 2010 following a review which determined that the program had failed toeffectively meet the skills needs of Australia. The review recommended a moretargeted Skills Occupations List (SOL), which was announced in July 2010. TheSOL includes fewer occupations than those in MODL but is aimed to deliver aGeneral Skilled Migration program focused on high-value skills. The introduction ofthis SOL forms part of a package which reflects the Federal Government’scommitment to a labour market demand-driven Skilled Migration program. We haverecently seen a reduction in the number of skilled immigrants coming to Australiaand it is important that this is trend is further analysed and its impacts mapped.The risk is that there are a large number of significant projects simultaneouslyoccurring in Australia and overseas which is increasing both national andinternational competition for skilled workers. Many overseas projects are reportingthe same skills shortages as those demanded in Australia. Where demand isallowed to outstrip supply, labour costs will increase as will the incidence of poachingkey personnel, eventually resulting in projects performing poorly beyond plannedbudgets and timescales, or failing to be realised at all.The mining industry and other key sectors need to be strategic and proactive toensure they maintain a sustainable and suitably skilled workforce. The majority ofskill shortages are at professional, para professional and trade levels with theseprofessions often requiring the successful completion of a minimum of four yearstraining/education. These long lead-times for skilled workers and potentially a lowersupply of international workers means that there is no ‘quick fix’.Failure to plan and implement effective workforce development strategies whichaddress critical issues will severely impact an industry’s future sustainability andgrowth. Whilst investment in misaligned workforce strategies will cost valuable 3
  4. 4. resources for poor returns or benefits. Once a workforce plan has been developed,a strategic industry workforce development approach means moving the focus fromindividual workers within an organisation to the development of strategic andsustainable skilling systems from an industry wide perspective. It shifts theemphasis from skills shortage to systems development.Georgina Davis is the Workforce Planning Manager for Energy SkillsQueensland, the Centre of Excellence for Strategic Industry WorkforceDevelopment for the Energy and Telecommunications Industry.Georgina Davis is speaking at the Workforce Planning in Mining 2011. Formore information about the event, please or call 02 9229 1000. Alternatively,you can email’t forget to follow Mining IQ on Twitter via @MiningIQ 4