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The Western Australian labour market may need an extra 40,000 resources workers over the next two years due to an unprecedented skills shortage, according to a Pit Crew Consulting Services report.

The Resources Sector Workforce Report (RSWR) found the resources sector’s skills shortage could reach 33,000 people by the 2023 September quarter.

The report stated the forecast was “based on a combination of a range of projects currently under construction requiring operations workforces; new projects reaching final investment decision and commencing construction; and a consistent demand for shutdown resources.”

Key factors influencing the skills shortage were external competition from eastern states and internal competition between Western Australian projects.

The report also found a decline in net interstate migration and interstate movement had an effect on the skills shortage.

However, an announcement earlier in June from premier Mark McGowan found the interstate migration rate had turned positive for the first time since 2013.

This discrepancy between reports could find the RSWR forecast is less severe than first thought – assuming McGowan’s announcement maintains its momentum – as the government continues to encourage fly-in, fly-out workers to permanently relocate out west.

Chamber of Minerals and Energy of Western Australia (CMEWA) chief executive officer Paul Everingham said the Pit Crew report was far worse than was last forecast.

“When we last released workforce modelling in August 2020, our sector had a positive outlook coming out of the worst of COVID-19 restrictions and we predicted then a need for an extra 8000 operational workers in the following 18 months – but this new research shows the situation is far more challenging than that,” Everingham said.

Everingham said the eastern states had posed a significant battle for Western Australia, reinforcing the need for the government’s relocating campaign.

“Unlike previous construction-led growth periods for our sector, where up to 1000 people a week were moving to WA for work, there are now strong employment prospects in the eastern states for people if they choose to stay at home,” he said.

The report indicated that the higher the skill level, the bigger the impact to the labour market.

“Technicians and trades workers will be hardest hit in regard to shortages. The high skill level required for some trades will continue to be problematic,” the report stated.

“Machinery operators and drivers will likewise be challenged on the sheer numbers required. Training is however shorter than for trades.”