Between Hook and Load, LEEA

A big 2022 sets up an even bigger 2023 for LEEA

Justin Boehm: What a phenomenal year 2022 was. It seems like a lifetime ago that the government kicked out tennis ace Novak Djokovic – but Australia only reopened its borders to the world in late February 2022 and New Zealand followed in April.

Yet throughout 2022 the lifting equipment industry powered ahead, with a number of significant and critical developments. Our members grew, with key acquisitions, mergers and new branches opening. Others had fresh starts and key personnel have achieved significant milestones.  

 One thing that points to 2023 being another incredible year is that the lifting equipment industry continues to be incredibly resilient. We were fortunate to have come through the worst of the pandemic unscathed and through that period the members truly come to the fore. 

 However, there is one thing that held our industry back – the lack of people. Over the year I spoke to key stakeholders across our industry and others, staffing is not a lifting industry issue alone. All industrial sectors are currently facing a human resourcing crisis. The shortage of staff is currently our greatest challenge, the roles are there, we just can’t fill them. 

 I was fortunate to have been invited to speak at the Crane Association New Zealand Conference in Hamilton last year. There I heard Brandon Hitch CEO of the Crane Industry Council of Australia speak about the demographics challenge within the crane industry and the pending cliff of crane operators. The skills and expertise currently held by the generation of operators in the 45–55-year-old bracket is phenomenal, but over the next 10 years we will face a critical shortage as these workers retire or leave the industry.

Justin Boehm, regional manager LEEA

 Economic conditions are still quite buoyant and there is still a significant pipeline of projects and works happening across the region. Consumer spending is holding up in the face of higher interest rates and high inflation. These conditions are leading to persistently high rates of employment and economists are stating that we’re at ‘full employment’. Australia is currently sitting around the 3.5% unemployment rate and New Zealand 3.3%. Another key metric is underutilisation which is also sitting at all-time lows. This means there is no one sitting around twiddling their thumbs and looking for a new job or change of career. This low unemployment and high utilisation trend is also happening the world over. The old chestnut of filling these gaps with migrant workers may not be the silver bullet of yesteryear.   

 Additionally, we’re facing the issue of attraction. Industrials are not the sexiest of jobs. The perception of dusty, dirty, manual work is problematic when the majority of high school students (our future employees) are continually fed the thinking that a tertiary education is the only way they can be perceived as successful. This is of course absurd, because as above we’re in an era where job scarcity is real and with a choice of jobs, any hard working individual that joins our industry is going to be a master of their own destiny.  Right now we’re in a critical trifecta of low unemployment, an aging workforce and young workers unattracted to the Industrials sector. 

 In 2020 LEEA launched Think Lifting, our school based industry attraction program. We have had significant success showing school aged students that the lifting equipment industry is a great place to be. At LiftEx, we hosted a number of school students looking to make contacts and connections into the industry. This was a complete success, as we demonstrated the connection between school STEM lessons and the lifting industry. In 2023, we’re seeking to partner with regional education hubs to demonstrate exactly how brilliant a career in lifting is. LEEA has developed a number of “Lessons in a Box”, which takes class planning issues away from our already stretched teachers. In March, LEEA will be hosting our annual Expo. Here we will have an opportunity to showcase the industry and we look to demonstrate to both school leavers and the industry as a whole, we are an ever advancing, exciting and brilliant industry to be involved in. 

 Here’s to 2023 being another fantastic year to be involved in our industry.

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