Skills shortage to hit rail industry hard

Acute labour shortages are likely to hit Australia’s rail industry hard, with 40 per cent of the current rail workforce to be replaced within the next five years, a study has found.

The study, conducted by the Australian analysis firm Infohrm for the Australasian Railway Association (ARA), has identified key contributors to the impending shortage, including the ageing workforce, a nation-wide scarcity of qualified labour, a shortage of rail-experienced staff and a lack of interest in rail as a career.
It also predicts that the industry would face employee deficits of between 2,291 and 3,282 to maintain the current number of operation roles over the next five years, with train operators accounting for up to one-third of the shortage.

Given the rising demand for both passenger and fright transportation services, the low number of graduate engineers is highlighted, along with critical shortages in engineering roles, such as electrical and signalling engineers and project managers.  

Chief executive officer of the ARA, Brian Nye, said : “We have all heard anecdotal comment on industry employment but the aim of the exercise was to provide real data and estimates into the future.

“Sometimes, individual companies can’t address all the issues and this was a means of providing information that we could then work together on as an industry.”

Infohrm’s managing director Anastasia Ellerby said: “The tight labour market is an issue for all employers but the rail industry has the added problem that many of its employees are required to undergo long training or apprenticeships before becoming qualified.”

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