Australia’s Skills Dilemma Language or Skills?

Posted on: 21.07.2011    13:35:25

Does Australia need to widen its search for talent? We have just been asked to find a number of welder/fabricators with mechanical skills able to mend and service heavy plant equipment.

My instinctive reaction is that you are not going to get those skills out of Western Europe as this area is rapidly losing such skill resources themselves as they are vested in the older workers who have no interest in looking at emigration. Skills shortages in Western Europe used to be serviced by migrant labour but that is now restricted to Eastern Europe owing to tightening of visa requirements.

What is really needed is good old fashioned mechanics who can wield a heavy hammer and machine out parts when no new ones are available. The ability to service what is there and to mend what isn’t working. People with these talents don’t come from the sophisticated west but can be found is you look East in Europe but finding a fluent English speaking Polish Workers with these skills is getting more difficult.

The language barrier also hits many from the Indian sub-continent as the better educated want to be Engineers or Oil and Gas Operatives and old fashioned manual work is not for them.

So the choice is – chase the skills and be more forgiving on language or get the language skills but not the all-round metal bashing skill required. Alternatively put up with perpetual skills shortages. However looking overseas is only a short term fix – where are the skilled guys going to come from in 10 or 20 years?

This is not just an Australian skills shortage dilemma it is one that is effecting all industrial economies as a result of the lack of apprenticeships, inappropriate education and the featherbedding of social support systems that allow people to be unemployed.

The consequences are an inflationary merry go round that is only going to get worse as the global market tightens for true talent as demand outstrips supply. It does very little to help the unemployed or should we say the unemployable who don’t have in demand skills.

The drag on our future prosperity is a frightening prospect.


Author: Chris Slay

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