An education pathway for the Australian lifting sector could contribute to fixing the skills mismatch and, crucially, improve safe practice, says Justin Boehm, Regional Manager – Australia & New Zealand at the Lifting Equipment Engineers Association (LEEA).
The lifting equipment industry is an essential component of the global economy, serving as a backbone for construction, infrastructure, mining, oil and gas and many other sectors. However, this industry is facing a significant challenge in the form of skills gaps. The lack of skilled workers is affecting the productivity and profitability of lifting equipment companies worldwide, and Australia and New Zealand are not immune. What are the possible solutions?
Both Australia and New Zealand are currently reporting some of their lowest unemployment rates in history but both also have the some of the worst skills shortages amongst the world’s richest countries, creating a skills mismatch that means the region requires half a million workers across almost every industry. Skills shortages are compounding economic challenges domestically. New Zealand has a similar unemployment rate as Australia and an equally high skills need. From March 2023, skilled crane operators will be among the roles added to its ‘Green List work to residence tier’, which has engineering and construction roles included on the existing list. This is on top of recent Cyclone and Flooding in NZ, meaning tradespeople are in even higher demand.
Contributing to this aim is an expansion in the number of occupations covered by the Australian Apprenticeship Priority List, from 77 to 111, as part of the Australian Apprenticeship Incentive System. This will increase the number of occupations eligible for additional support, including up to $5,000 in direct payments to apprentices, and a wage subsidy of up to $15,000 for employers.
The Australian Lifting Industry strongly appreciates the need to open up more opportunities for apprentices and traineeships, giving people on-the-job work experience. Growth in the lifting industry can only happen if there is a supply of skills into the sector – and the right kind of skills. It is important that, as a sector, we drive the type of apprenticeship that we need, and train people with the skills required by our forward-looking lifting Industry.
In 2023 employers will need to put more emphasis on developing their current workforce, offering regular training and certification programs to re-skill or up-skill staff. Training and Development is one of the best ways to close the skills gaps. Lifting equipment companies are investing in training their employees, with both new hires and existing staff regularly engaging with training.
Additionally, the lifting equipment industry needs to look ahead and see that our world is undergoing rapid digital transformation, with the introduction of new technologies such as IoT, automation and AI. Companies are looking to embrace these technologies to streamline their operations, reduce their reliance on human factors and increase productivity. By adopting these technologies, companies can reduce the impact of skills gaps on their operations. As our staff get younger and are digitally native, embracing new methods, understood by our next generation of workers, needs to be at the forefront of mind. Being digitally nimble and technologically enabled means the lifting equipment industry, as always, will be resilient through its challenges.
That is why LEEA’s Regional Council in Australia and New Zealand, is working on bringing to our market a solution to boost skills in the lifting equipment industry.
Promoting the lifting industry as a career option for young people is a key goal for LEEA. By creating learning pathways in close partnership with employers in the lifting industry we can ensure it is built around the high demand for recruits in the sector and embraces not only task-specific skills, but also a broader knowledge of engineering, business, technology and other fields, as well as the ‘softer’ employability skills around such things as values, teamwork and communication.
The LEEA Regional Council has worked incredibly hard to have an industry changing program of work completed and we’re looking forward to making a series of big announcement at LiftEx Regional – Sydney. This event, held on the 24th and 25th of May at the Sydney Maritime Museum, will lift the lid on some of LEEA’s exciting projects. This is going to be a brilliant event, focusing on how the lifting industry can meet the challenges of the next 10-20 years.
We look forward to hosting you in Sydney.