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The Australian resources and energy sector will need 24,400-plus new workers by 2026 to support its pipeline of 98 new and expansion projects, according to the Australian Resources and Energy Group (AMMA).

AMMA outlined this need in Thursday’s release of the Resources and Energy Forecast (2021-2026) report, which found the mining industry’s most in-demand occupation for this period will be plant operators, requiring a whopping 9233 workers.

This was followed by 3014 heavy diesel fitters and 4484 engineers, geologists and other technical roles.

The statistics are based on the 98 projects, which are worth a combined $83.8 billion, being either “committed” or considered “likely” by the Australian Department of Industry to be completed by 2026.

AMMA chief executive Steve Knott said the number of jobs in the pipeline would almost double once the construction workforce required to build these projects, plus other flow-on jobs are considered.

“The Department of Industry’s recent major projects report noted investment in the resources and energy industry has entered a new growth cycle,” Knott said.

“AMMA’s new workforce report shows what this growth cycle could mean for employment in Australia’s resources and energy industry and what occupations will be in highest demand.

“This forecast for over 24,400 new operational-phase employees is highly conservative. It only factors in projects either already committed or very close to receiving final investment decision.

“It’s reasonable to expect the true impacts of this investment pipeline to be well over 50,000 jobs.”

The resources and energy workforce will experience 10 per cent growth over this six-year period, meaning the total employees will exceed 260,000 for the first time since February 2014.

Western Australia will have the greatest new resources and energy workforce demand, with 47 projects requiring 11,628 new workers by 2026.

Queensland will need 6240 new workers, driven by 20 projects including several coal mines, while New South Wales also shows strong growth potential with 20 projects in its pipeline demanding a forecasted 4850 positions.

Knott said recent federal government reforms, including the project life greenfields agreement, offered stable industrial relations arrangements for mining projects for the entire construction phase, which would be essential in progressing these 98 valuable projects.

“This data shows the huge opportunity for Australia’s resources and energy industry to lead the country’s economy and labour market out of the COVID-19 recession,” Knott said.

“But the industry needs long overdue regulatory reform to assist in securing these opportunities. The importance of this reform to securing final investment decision on new major projects cannot be overstated.

“This simple improvement will make a massive difference to getting the $84 billion worth of advanced projects and their potential to bring in more than 24,400 new jobs over the line.”