Recruitment report reveals energy sector skills shortage

Engineers, substation designers and design managers top the list of skills in demand in Australia’s energy sector in the first quarter of the new financial year, according to recruitment firm Hays.

The skills shortages were revealed in the latest Hays reportfor the July-September quarter.

Demand remains high within transmission and distribution and, in particular, the primary and secondary substation design areas as large capital works programs create substation builds and upgrade projects.

This is most obvious in New South Wales, while in Queensland the upgrading of the electrical grid to cope with the demand of the mining sector has also created demand for primary and secondary engineers as well as linesmen/women and electrical engineers for substation, switchgear and power generation projects.

In South Australia, primary and secondary substation designers, design managers and HV project engineers are in demand due to an overall increase in power demand, new major infrastructure projects (including growth in the state’s mining sector), new residential construction and finally the meeting of clean energy targets.

Candidates with design and project management experience in transmission and distribution remain in strong demand in Victoria given the lack of skills in the industry coupled with the increasing number of projects.

In Western Australia, electrical project engineers and electrical design engineers with generation or transmission and distribution experience are sought, the Hays report states. In regional Western Australia there are at least two major new power stations being built and there is also a major focus on upgrading the transmission network in Perth.

Hays said it expects to see ongoing permanent and temporary vacancy activity within the transmission and distribution industry as employers strengthen their existing teams.

“We expect vacancy activity to rise in the power generation industry once the carbon tax to industries is announced publicly, with upgrade projects on the horizon to reduce power station emissions,” a Hays spokesperson said.

Candidates are aware of the demand for their skills and they also know that competitive salaries are on offer, according to Hays. The recruitment company has seen a higher number of candidates move from permanent to contract roles in order to secure premium rates. In addition, top- quality candidate levels are decreasing and those candidates that are available expect high salaries in response to the demand for their skills.

The only exception is in the power- generation space, particularly the wind industry, where Hays has seen an increase in candidates given the slowdown in new projects and investment.

Employers are reviewing their salaries and offering increases in response to applicant availability, which remains a “huge challenge” for the energy sector.