Skills shortage may derail infrastructure drive

Government investment in rail infrastructure may be welcome news for industry, but a significant employee shortage poses a problem

The Federal Government’s scheme to improve rail infrastructure may be welcome news for the rail sector, but a significant employee shortage poses a problem.

This is the message from electrical engineering firm O’Donnell Griffin, which says a recent report compiled by human resources firm Infohrm found 40 percent of rail employees—or 3200—are approaching retirement.

As well as this, industry training has fallen since the 1980s, leading O’Donnell Griffin Rail General Manager David Howe to say the industry is suffering through a "catch-up" period.

The industry is desperately short of graduate engineers, prompting O’Donnell Griffin to launch its Rail Engineering Graduate program in conjunction with the Central Queensland University.

Howe says the company is currently recruiting recently graduated dual degree engineers and sponsoring each graduate through the Rail Signalling degree by correspondence over three years.

"The revival of the rail investment has led to an increase in interest in the rail sector from those graduates with a double degree in electrical and mechanical engineering," Howe says.

"The transformation that has occurred with the industry has made it a keenly sought after vocation. It may be a different choice to IT and construction engineering that normally attracts graduates but the scope for challenging and diverse job opportunities in the Australian rail industry is extraordinary."

Along with the graduate program, the company will also look to bolster its skilled labour force through recruiting drives in the United Kingdom, South Africa and the subcontinent.

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