Skills in Demand: The Upper Spencer Gulf

Wednesday, 2 November 2005

Between 2006 and 2010 the major manufacturing and mineral resource processing industries in the Upper Spencer Gulf will require an additional 480 tradespeople and 1800 new employees, according to a new report conducted by the South Australian Centre for Economic Studies.

The Centre, a joint research initiative of the University of Adelaide and Flinders University, compiled its report on the Heavy Industry sector of the Upper Spencer Gulf region, which comprises Whyalla, Port Augusta, Port Pirie and Roxby Downs.

Centre Director Michael O'Neil says that the strong demand for skilled labour was due to economic growth in the region, recent population growth and retirement rates of older workers out to 2010.

"And these new jobs do not take into account the massive expansion of Olympic Dam by BHP Billiton or an estimated workforce of 400 persons at Prominent Hill commencing in 2007," he says.

The Centre for Economic Studies is currently completing a further report on the economic and employment impact of the expansion of the mining sector in South Australia.

Unemployment in the Upper Spencer Gulf region has fallen, employment has increased and there is already evidence of a skills shortage. With fewer younger people entering the labour force, and as the existing workforce ages, then strong demand for young employees is already evident.

Mr O'Neil says: "even before students in pre-vocational courses had completed their studies, they were being offered jobs by employers in the region. Recruitment is increasingly competitive with several companies looking off-shore for skilled workers."

In the conduct of this study, the Centre found evidence of a shortage of university-trained metallurgists, geologists and engineers. There is also considerable evidence of skill shortages for specific trades, namely electrical and electronic engineers, boilermakers/welders, fitters, instrument technicians and mechanics (diesel).

The demand for skilled tradespersons is expected to grow as the mining sector expands their construction and operation workforce.

But even without this expansion the estimated additional demand in the number of trades and related workers required each year and then for the five-year period to 2010 was estimated at:

  • Electrical Instrumentation 30 per year (150 over 5 years);
  • Mechanical 27 per year (135);
  • Construction 24 per year (120); and
  • Automotive 19 per year (95).

The study was undertaken for the group of companies clustered under the title Global Maintenance Upper Spencer Gulf (GMUSG), which specialise in heavy engineering and an array of maintenance services. This groups seeks to examine issues related to workforce development, skill requirements into the future and how these could be addressed.

The Centre for Economic Studies noted the initiative of industry in planning for any future workforce needs and the commitment of the heavy engineering sector and the Whyalla Economic Development Board to train and employ local young people in the area.


Contact Details

Associate Professor Michael O'Neil
SA Centre for Economic Studies
University of Adelaide
Business: +61 8 8313 4545
Mobile: +61 (0)408 812 032

Media Team
The University of Adelaide
Business: +61 8 8313 0814

Mr David Ellis
Deputy Director, Media and Corporate Relations
External Relations
The University of Adelaide
Business: +61 8 8313 5414
Mobile: +61 (0)421 612 762