We know there is a skills shortage in Australia, but nothing aims to threaten the mining industry like the critical shortage of welders.
The problem isn’t exclusively felt in Australian mining. In almost every industry across the world, welding has a transverse part to play in energy, defence, rail and transportation projects too. This severe shortfall of welders is driving major concerns for manufacturing, infrastructure, and future-proof projects in every corner of the globe.
According to Weld Australia, which represents the welding profession in Australia, the country is facing a shortfall of 70,000 welders by 2030 unless drastic action is taken. A shortage of welders in Australia threatens to even disrupt the progression of renewable energy infrastructure, the industry body has warned.
Moreover, access to the global supply chain for fabricated steel products will be a high-risk, expensive proposition.
The fabrication industry has shrunk by about 20 per cent over the past 20 years, with the number of welders in Australia decreasing from 90,000 to just under 60,000.
Schlam's Fabrication Services Manager Dan Hilmi hasn’t seen this in his career spanning over 20 years.
“In the past, if you ever needed a welder, you only needed to ask a mate if they knew someone and you could fill a role pretty quickly. Nowadays it is a real struggle to find someone to fill vacancies.” He said.
There are many common misconceptions about the industry, sighting repetitive, monotonous and often dirty work. Some believe welding offers low pay and lacks career growth opportunities. But none of this is true. In fact, welders can earn up to $140,000 to $200,000 in the mining sector and the job prospects in mining couldn’t be more lucrative.
Welding is an art; skill; trade; engineering discipline; and science. It is at the very heart of Schlam’s history. In 1996, we started out as a high-quality fabrication business. Twenty-five years later and it is still the cornerstone of our company.
In order to mitigate the shortage, calls for a radical overhaul of welding apprenticeships, and tapping into hidden sources of talent are strategies that industry bodies are proposing to governments. Encouraging more women to adopt the trade, making skilled immigration easier and more accessible and even looking at career pathways for prison inmates are a few ideas being thrown in the mix.
Most states in Australia require welders to complete a Certificate III in Engineering – Fabrication to qualify as professional welders.
Available as an apprenticeship, the course teaches the necessary skills to students while working on the job. The typical duration of the apprenticeship is around 42 to 48 months. The industry is calling for much shorter training timeframes and a much easier career pathway.