Skill shortage a handbrake on expansion



LOCAL businesses are experiencing trouble expanding because of a shortage of people with the skills to help make it happen.

Yesterday former Gladstone Chamber of Commerce president David Hickey said research by his company Drake International showed there would be permanent labour shortages in many industry sectors by 2010, due to the country's ageing population.

He said he thought Gladstone could defy this trend due to its transient population, but added that skills shortages were causing major headaches for local employers.

'The trades are a big problem but if you look around there are plenty of business examples where they say we need people now but can't get them. The economy is strong and they need staff now,' Mr Hickey said.

'Finding people is not a problem, however finding the right people with the necessary skills and qualifications is a challenge.

He said while unemployment figures were low, competition for good people would remain high.

'This situation is tipped to get worse as employers have realised the importance of hanging onto good staff, particularly skilled, blue collar workers.

'Already large companies are offering competitive salary packages and flexible work hours. Even smaller firms have incentives in place to make working conditions more attractive.'

The paper said falling fertility rates and current immigration levels could lead to permanent labour shortages as the number of new people entering the workforce declined while baby boomers retired.

Mr Hickey said organisations would have to make more effort to retain older employees, and to make themselves attractive to the best young people.

'People are an important resource. If you were short on fuel you wouldn't go without it.'



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