On 1 September 2009 the Australian Government established the National Resources Sector Employment Taskforce to address the workforce needs of major resources projects over the next five years and beyond. Taskforce members have been drawn from the resources industry, the education and skills sector, and government. Members are listed at Appendix II and the Terms of Reference are at Appendix III.
The initial impetus for the Taskforce was the announcement of the Gorgon Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) Project—a $43 billion undertaking of the US energy company Chevron in conjunction with ExxonMobil and Shell on Barrow Island, 50 kilometres off the coast of North West Australia (Appendix IV). Gorgon will create some 3500 jobs directly during construction, most of them located on Barrow Island. Direct and indirect employment is expected to peak at about 10 000 during construction, including indirect jobs for suppliers, contractors and service industries as far away as Geelong and Townsville. This and other major resources projects due to come on stream in the next five years are expected to create significant additional demand for skilled labour. With the right policies from business and government, these projects can become catalysts for major human capital investment with the potential to boost Australia’s future productivity and improve the sustainability of regional communities.
With the right approach, we can ensure that the efficient expansion of the resources sector supports new job opportunities across the whole country, avoiding the problems associated with a ‘two-speed’ economy and the worst impacts of skills shortages. We can also address important social issues, like the current high rate of Indigenous unemployment in regional Australia.
The Taskforce wants to ensure that these projects constitute more than just another ‘mining boom’; it wants them to play a vital role in the next big transformation of the Australian economy. The Taskforce seeks input from all relevant stakeholders to address important employment, labour and skills issues.
This discussion paper sets out the major topics and questions that need to be addressed. The Taskforce’s major responsibilities are to: • examine the scope and timing of major resources projects; • analyse the expected demand for labour and consider supply issues; and • develop a plan to address labour and skills shortage issues in the sector. The Taskforce will take into account the different requirements of the construction and operational phases of resources projects. It will also consider the implications of project timing, particularly as a number of projects may commence simultaneously, leading to competition for skilled employees. While the Taskforce will primarily consider the skills needs of the resources sector, it will also consider the competition for skills coming from emerging industries, including those in the renewable energy sector. It will specifi cally examine the role of education and training in meeting industry skills needs.
The Taskforce will also consider the ‘ripple effects’ of major resources projects, such as labour shortages in other industries and other locations, and make recommendations to minimise disruption. The Taskforce is required to report to the Government by mid-2010 with a plan to address the skills and labour needs of the resources sector. It will report to the Minister for Resources and Energy, the Hon Martin Ferguson AM MP, and the Minister for Employment Participation, Senator the Hon Mark Arbib. As Taskforce chair I have taken the opportunity to keep the Government advised of policy matters relating to our brief on a continuing basis. The plan needs to be supported by evidence. Submissions to the Taskforce should therefore be substantiated with information and data to support claims. The Taskforce is specifically interested in receiving projections from resources and construction companies and other expert sources relating to the numbers and types of jobs (including skills required) by duration, project and geographic location for existing and planned projects. Companies are also urged to cooperate with state governments that may be gathering information in an effort to respond to the Taskforce or for their own workforce planning purposes.