New moves to make the skills pool wider
AFRIENDLIER work- life balance, a shorter working week and encouraging women and indigenous workers into the field are among moves Leighton Contractors have made to boost employment and retain their existing staff.
The company, one of the nation’s leaders in construction, with a workforce of 6000 and $ 6 billion worth of work under way, has been forced to employ 100 skilled engineers from overseas in the past 11 months to make up for the shortfall in talent, as our politicians allow the nation’s pool of skilled workers to run down.
Leighton Contractors’ manager of staffing and recruitment, David Evans, says the company’s traditional hunting grounds of the UK and South Africa are also drying up as they are being ‘‘ pillaged by all and sundry’’.
He says: ‘‘ Over the next 12 to 18 months, we probably need to find 600 skilled people, working from a base that is pretty tight. It’s a big number.’’
‘‘ It’s a challenge for all the organisations in our industry.
‘‘ There is a continual demand being placed on organisations such as our own by government and private enterprise to develop greater infrastructure such as, roads, rail and buildings.
‘‘" There is not an infinite supply of people to work on these projects.’’
And Mr Evans says the crisis will ‘‘ come to a head shortly’’. He adds: ‘‘ When I talk to my peers at other organisations, it’s not restricted to our company - it’s right across the sector.’’
He says the greatest shortage is in the area of skilled engineers: ‘‘ It includes project managers, senior project engineers and site engineers, right down to people in our health and safety roles, who have an important role in the construction and mining industries.’’
The most critical shortage among skilled trades is diesel fitters, for whom the company is now hunting overseas.
‘‘ In construction, our challenge is how we can attract people and retain the people we already have,’’ Mr Evans says.
He says the pay is excellent: ‘‘ You often work 5.5 days a week they work hard but you get rewarded for it.’’
He says programs to make the field more attractive to women include paid parental leave, both maternity and paternity, and trialling a five- day working week, cutting out Saturday work, which he says is working well.
‘‘ We are offering a better work- life balance so we can provide outcomes for our clients but with a sustainable balance so our people don’t get burnt out and want to leave.
‘‘ We need to do more to make engineering more attractive for females by addressing the work- life balance.
‘‘ Only 12 to 16 per cent of engineering graduates are female, but women make up 56 per cent of university graduates, so there is an issue that they don’t see it as a viable career opportunity.
‘‘ We are trying to recruit more women into our senior leadership roles. We have got a number of senior females enrolled as project directors. We are removing that old- school blokey mentality from these roles.’’
Evans says the 600 jobs for skilled professionals that would be coming up in the next 12 months all had a base pay of $ 70,000- plus. This does not include bonuses, superannuation or other salary packages like cars or living away from home allowances, which are also available.