Mixed messages on employment

Different industry sectors pose a variety of problems for recruiters – a shortage of graduates or Australian-trained workers, difficulty attracting people to remote work sites, or finding positions that require high degrees of specialisation. Mining, renewable energy, nursing, and information technology are some of the sectors drawing more attention from employment agencies, as WA Business News reports on pages 8, 9 and 12.

p Julie-anne Sprague

THE Federal Government’s refusal to sign the Kyoto Agreement on climate control doesn’t mean renewable energy is a lost cause in Australia. Quite the opposite, in fact.

The market for renewable energy is growing at a phenomenal rate, with a shortage of applicants for the many employment opportunities available.

Acre Fund Management Ltd chief investment officer Duncan van der Merwe said that there currently were 227 renewable energy projects under way in Australia, with that number expected to increase in the near future.

“There are 87 projects proposed across the nation, 28 of those are in WA,” Mr van der Merwe said.

“There are currently 20 projects in operation in WA.”

Murdoch University Professor of Energy Studies Philip Jennings said the new projects were fuelling a demand greater than the number of graduates the university produced.

“There is a huge demand for people who are knowledgeable about alternative energy systems,” Professor Jennings said.

“The greatest demand is across designing and installing systems, the management of energy in a company office and how to economise energy, and in energy policy and economics.”

The university has added an undergraduate degree to accompany its post graduate offerings this year. Murdoch produces about 30 graduates a year, compared with four or five graduates 10 years ago, but this still falls short of industry requirements.

“It’s an international problem and the education industry was caught a little on the hop with this,” Professor Jennings said.

“Government policy and the education industry were a bit slow to recognise the emerging need; most institutions haven’t responded yet.”

Drake Executive senior consultant Stephen Alpers said recruiting for the renewable energy sector was a challenging task because of the small pool of experienced candidates.

“It’s often a matter of finding a person with the best transferable skills,” Mr Alpers said.

He said that having global offices widened the catchment net to include windfarm specialists in Europe and North America, which helped the company find the perfect candidate.

“The renewable energy industry is changing and growing quickly – it is set to stay as one of the fastest growing industries over the next few decades. Recruiting the right people can be crucial for a business that wants to position itself as a market leader,” Mr Alpers said.

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