According to Bhp Billiton, Australian resources industry will need an extra 170,000 workers in the next five years.
The mining giant said the resources boom will create 90,000 continuing jobs by 2016 and demand for temporary construction workers will peak at 80,000 in 2014.
In a sign of the growing risk of skills shortages, BHP’s prediction is almost 60 per cent higher than a previous government forecast used to develop policies for meeting skills demand.
A federal taskforce into resources employment last year said 61,500 mining jobs would be created by 2015 and the construction workforce would peak at 45,000.
Most of the job growth is forecast in Western Australia and Queensland, where companies are investing in coal, iron ore and liquefied natural gas projects.
The Minister for Resources, Martin Ferguson, said the gap between BHP’s forecast and the government’s could be explained by the new investment approved in the past year.
Skills shortages were expected to peak in 2014 or 2015, he said, but the challenge was ‘not a bad problem to have’.
”Our fundamentals as a nation economically are sound, as reflected in the BHP projections on labour force demand,” he said.
To meet the massive demand, mining companies have already begun a recruitment drive in depressed economic regions and are likely to use more foreign workers.
Enterprise migration agreements announced in the budget will soon allow big resources projects to source foreign temporary labour forces more easily.
The government is also trying to encourage people in economically weak areas, such as tourism hubs, to sign up as fly-in fly-out workers in mining.