Energy skills shortage deepens

Large CAPEX programs and the mining boom have created a major shortage in primary design engineers, transmission line design engineers and project managers in overhead lines, according to the finding of the Hays Quarterly Report, covering July to September 2012.

The report also found high salaries in the mining states have led to greater competition between employers in non-mining states for the remaining candidates.

“In our resources states, increased power requirements to fuel the resources boom will see an increased requirement for skilled personnel both in the construction of transmission and power generation projects, as well as the ongoing maintenance of these assets,” Hays Energy senior regional director Simon Winfield said.

“In transmission and distribution we are seeing demand for distribution designers, principle electrical engineers with key transmission utility experience and electrical engineers with key experience and asset management on the utility network.”

Hays also released its 2012 Salary Guide in August, which showed that the deepening of Australia’s energy skills shortage has been the most dominant trend over the past year. But do not expect any swift or dramatic upswing in global economic conditions, Mr Winfield said.

“There is no silver bullet over the horizon to wait for,” he said. “Current conditions are here to stay for some time, so the sooner we can adapt business practices to meet the requirements of this – the ‘new normal’ – rather than waiting for a dramatic reversal to the global market to set us on a more secure road, the more effective we’ll all be.”

The guide reveals salary and recruiting trends for Australia and New Zealand, and was based on a survey of more than 1500 employers as well as placements made by Hays.

“Across the country several areas of high-demand but low supply now exist,” Mr Winfield said.

“Adding to Australia’s skills shortage is the challenge of attracting candidates to remote locations and competition with the mining and oil and gas sectors, where salaries are higher. In the mining states, the cost of accommodation in areas affected by the mining boom is another challenge. As a result employers, particularly in regional Queensland, are offering relocation allowances or accommodation to encourage rural working or relocation.

“We have also seen counter offers increase along with the provision of additional incentives as employers attempt to retain current staff.

“Employers are also attracting candidates from other industries. While energy professionals previously often moved to mining or oil and gas for a higher salary or continuity of work, today we are seeing a greater number of skilled professionals electing to remain within the energy industry. In fact, the trend has now reversed in some cases, and we are seeing candidates without traditional energy backgrounds looking to move into power.

“Also adding to the candidate pool are overseas candidates. Some companies are becoming more open to sponsoring international candidates, particularly those from the UK and New Zealand. Interstate recruitment is also on the rise, particularly in Western Australia and Queensland.

“Looking ahead, on the back of mining development and infrastructure upgrades the next 12 months will continue to see strong demand for energy professionals. Companies will continue to reassess their candidate attraction strategies and make improvements. Salary pressure is also likely to remain.”

Energy professionals can expect a moderate salary increase this year as current market conditions remain, according to the guide.

It found that 46 per cent of employers increased salaries last year between three and six per cent. A further 10 per cent gave an increase above six per cent. But 35 per cent gave increases of less than 3 per cent, while the final 9 per cent gave no increase at all.

Looking ahead, 42 per cent of employers intend to increase salaries between 3 and 6 per cent when they next review. A further six per cent of employer’s will increase salaries above six per cent. Nevertheless 46 per cent of employers intend to increase salaries less than 3 per cent, while 6 per cent do not intend to offer any increases when they next review.