Australia’s public infrastructure, housing and energy plans are in danger of being sabotaged by a critical shortage of materials and skills, the national infrastructure advisory body says.
As of October there was a shortage of 229,000 full time infrastructure workers and Australia faces a shortfall of up to 131,00 by 2024, Infrastructure Australia’s 2023 Infrastructure Market Capacity report says.
Engineers and scientists will continue to experience the largest of all shortages until mid-2024. Trades and labour shortages are growing at the fastest rate.
It’s the third year that Infrastructure Australia has reported significant labour shortages, with the report estimating the infrastructure workforce needs to grow by 127 per cent to meet demand.
CEO Adam Copp says construction activity and demand for materials, skills and labour is at a historic high, with a major public infrastructure pipeline of $230 billion over five years, on top of plans to build 1.2 million new homes and energy sector investment expected to grow at around four times current activity levels.
While overall demand for infrastructure has flattened compared to the previous year, the Murray, NSW Mid North Coast and Riverina regions, Central Queensland and the NT outback are set to experience ‘extraordinary growth’ over the next three to four years, the report says.
Meanwhile, “acute” quarry shortages are looming in Melbourne, the NSW Mid North Coast and South East Queensland and steel production if failing to meet demand.
Australia’s lack of domestic capability to supply building materials could result in cost overruns, delays and global supply chain risks, Mr Copp says.
“With so much construction activity underway, the industry is finding it increasingly difficult to source key building materials and workers – particularly engineers, skilled trades and labourers,” he said.
“A clear message in this year’s report is that limited access to local steel and cement, as well as localised shortages of quarry products is contributing to price uncertainty in the supply chain, leading to delays and cost overruns,” Mr Copp said.
The report contains 14 recommendations around demand management, boosting materials and workforce and improving productivity to ensure the long term sustainability of the construction sector.
That includes the development of a national workforce strategy and long term workforce planning in conjunction with industry to attract, retrain and upskill workers, including women.
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