Companies look offshore for skills

9 May, 2006

A SHORTAGE of skilled welders has forced ARB Corporation, a car parts manufacturer specialising in the production of welded products, to extend its business to Thailand.

Roger Brown, chairman of Australia’s largest maker of four-wheel-drive accessories, claims that, despite having opened an extension to their plant about a year-and-a-half ago as a result of a lack of skilled workers available for their Kilsyth plant in Victoria, this has deeply impacted upon their workforce.

“Basically we can’t man it. We have not been able to get welders – that is, people who can weld in a production sense. We certainly can’t get qualified people. We get some people who we can try and train and that’s about as far as we have got,” he said.

As a result, this has had a most negative effect upon the production rate of the plant and its potential growth. “We just cannot grow at the moment, we’ve got work we just can’t complete,” said Brown.

Being unable to hire qualified welders for more than a year now, one of ARB’s tactics to solve the problem has been to train people. Despite this, however, Brown claims it has simply been too difficult to keep people as turnover of trained welders is still high.

According to Brown this lack of qualified welders is in part due to “a big drain going on in places like Mackay and northern Western Australia, where the mines are sucking them in,” he said. “They pay fancier wages and, if you’re a young fellow with a trade, you’d go there. I know I would.”

A recent survey found 22 per cent of companies were actively looking for staff overseas in order to fill gaps in the skilled worker market.

Conducted by Talent2, it also found 35 per cent of Australian workers believe there is a higher than usual rate of resignation within their company, contributing to companies being forced to look at the global jobseeker market.

“According to Department of Education Science and Training figures, over 50 skilled professions are currently facing a skills shortage throughout Australia,” said Laura Mabikafola of Talent2.

“Businesses need to make an active effort to retrain, up-skill and promote staff from within in order to stem the flow of employees from the organisation. “

ARB’s Brown acknowledged skill shortages were a problem for the whole industry.

“We’re not alone. In the same industries there’s a lot of people with the same problem. In some areas of employment we can get people, but in others we just can’t and welding is a really good example of where we can’t get people,” he said.

- Melissa Yen, Human Resources

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