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Townsville Bulletin – Tapped for talent amid project boom December 2017

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Tapped for talent amid project boom

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TIGHT MARKET: TP Human Capital managing director Clayton Cook says the city will struggle to attract skilled workers. Picture: ALIX SWEENEY

THE region faces a “war for talent” as major projects ramp up and the labour market tightens, recruitment professional Clayton Cook says.

It comes as mining giant Glencore and mining contractor Downer hold events in Townsville to attract staff and as the Townsville Chamber of Commerce warns the city needs to sell itself to southern markets to attract skills.

Mr Cook, managing director of TP Human Capital, said Townsville faced a war for talent.

While he was not predicting a return of mining boom conditions, Mr Cook said a recovery in commodity prices was boosting activity across the coal, base metals and gas sectors.

Also, $500 million worth of road projects were starting at Mackay and at the Haughton River, just south of Townsville.

“A war for talent will return to North Queensland and companies need to be prepared,” Mr Cook said.

“Over the course of 2017, the announcement of a number of major projects such as the stadium build, the Burdekin pipeline, the Adani mine, along with a rallying of commodity prices, has seen business confidence return to Townsville. With business confidence comes jobs.”

Mr Cook said the skills in most demand would be in engineering, trades and finance.

While speculation rages over whether Adani will obtain the finance to start the first stage of its Carmichael coal and rail project, which some suggest will be a $6.7 billion spend, its primary contractor Downer is calling for expressions of interest for skills.

Downer is calling for services and skills in mine planning, drilling, blasting, overburden removal, coal mining, coal processing, rehabilitation, civil works and maintenance of mobile and fixed plant.

Meanwhile, Glencore is looking for underground mining engineers, mine planning engineers, drill and blast engineers, metallurgists, geologists, safety and training advisers and underground production and development skills for its operations at Mount Isa and Cloncurry in Queensland and McArthur River in the Northern Territory.

There is speculation Glencore could be preparing to ramp up the zinc production slashed with the loss of more than 500 jobs in 2015, although no announcements have been made. Glencore and Hays will hold a zinc assets open day in Townsville tomorrow.

Townsville Chamber of Commerce board member Michael Kopittke has met training bodies and urged the State Government to consider helping employers with the relocation costs of recruits.

“The issue we have is that the planets are aligning and every state in Australia is going to be chasing tradespeople,” Mr Kopittke said. “We are going to have to go out into the marketplace and sell Townsville and try and get the tradespeople to choose us.”

Townsville economist Colin Dwyer said reports by consultants BIS Oxford showed North Queensland would have the strongest regional growth in major projects over the next five years.

While he was unsure that would prompt a war for talent, he said there was definitely going to be “a lot of competition”.

“We have many people here who are unemployed. We have to skill them up and give them experience so they can contribute,” Mr Dwyer said.

“We also need to compete on a national basis to attract people to our city.”