T&D sectors still acting cautiously
National guide to current hotspots of recruitment activity and trends, the Hays Quarterly Report April-June 2015 has updated the energy sector on changing market conditions.
New South Wales:
In New South Wales, the report indicated uncertainty about whether utilities will be privatised or not is, not surprisingly, causing a freeze on hires in new projects in the transmission and distribution sector. However, with the Liberal Party recently winning the state government elections, researchers expect there to be more clarity on this issue in the months ahead.
Temporary contracts remain the preferred method of recruitment in as they give employers flexibility and help them keep labour costs low in an uncertain marketplace. There are currently many candidates applying for the limited number of jobs available, with employers keen to consider procurement and tendering staff in order to win new contracts.
As a result of this, there is a high demand for estimators to work on improving existing electrical transmission and distribution systems. As work in these areas becomes tougher to come by, estimation skills will no doubt become more highly sought after. Level 3 design engineers are also needed to provide both design and construct services.
In terms of candidate trends, more people are prepared to take less money and responsibility in order to secure a job in NSW, but the problem is selling that message to the employer, as they tend to fear losing staff once another big project emerges.
Salaries have stabilised in Western Australia and are being reviewed in some cases so that they are comparable with other states. Researchers have seen a small but noticeable migration of energy candidates from the state looking for work at international projects or to move to a more buoyant economy.
With the decline in the use of contractors, employers are focusing on the retention of key staff and hiring only when they have essential permanent positions vacant. Lack of government funding has resulted in subcontractors consolidating their resources as they are reliant on public utilities and the release of work packs.
With energy being an extremely competitive market, experienced sales engineers who specialise in generators are still invaluable to companies. Those with an established client base in other states who are looking to enter the local market are highly sought. There is a shortage of qualified drillers, cable layers and switching operators with Western Power accreditation in the state due to the small number of candidates that operate in the market.
Victoria is still feeling the pinch of the advanced metering infrastructure (AMI) overspend and a reduction in capital expenditure. The Australian Energy Regulator (AER) is also becoming more stringent about what distributors are allowed build. Falling demand has led to a limited amount of construction happening in Victoria. With operations and maintenance work being scarce, the contractors are suffering and as a result are retrenching staff. Employers are more likely to commit to short-term contracts as opposed to permanent positions because the outlook for the industry is uncertain at present.
With a focus on streamlining their business, companies are increasingly looking to bring functions in house and reduce their reliance on subcontractors where possible. Companies with sufficient work on their books in Victoria are still interested in experienced glove and barrier lineworkers as they are looking to bring work in house and not issue work out to contractors.
High levels of competition for tenders and proposals have created a need for technical tender/bid specialists who can win new contracts. In Victoria there is new legislation being rolled out that will create competition in the market for electricity meters. This will see an increase in demand for meter data specialists from companies setting up these departments.
Stability is the number one consideration for all candidates at present. Money is no longer the main driver and candidates are willing to look at a reduction in salary in return for more stability.
The energy business model has undergone significant changes in the state and there is now a lot more focus on maintenance works to maintain the existing assets. A high percentage of all current vacancies are contract roles as employers do not want to take people on permanently.
Employers are being much more specific in their requirements for candidates compared to 18 months ago as they have less of a budget for relocation and training. Fully qualified glove and barrier live line workers in particular are needed in South-East Queensland to undertake network maintenance.
Notably, the quality of candidates’ resumes has increased as they are aware that the market has become more competitive. Most candidates are becoming more open to contract roles.