Young workers sought to fill 70,000 railway jobs gap

Australia’s peak railway body has kicked off a campaign to recruit young workers in a bid to address a skills shortage of 70,000 roles in the industry.

The Australasian Railway Association’s Work in Rail campaign is designed to attract school graduates after research showed workers under the age of 25 represented just four per cent of the industry’s workforce.

And the shortage has persisted despite roles with starting salaries higher than $90,000 a year.

The rail campaign also follows increasing investment in rail infrastructure and a report that found Australia was expected to suffer ongoing skills shortages heightened by the pandemic.

Australasian Railway Association chief executive Caroline Wilkie said the industry desperately needed to attract and train workers if it was to complete a full slate of state and national projects.

“With a $155 billion pipeline of projects planned in the next 15 years and an ageing workforce, it is absolutely critical we increase our numbers of younger workers,” she said.

“We particularly urge young people to consider an electrical apprenticeship as there is huge growth predicted for electrical related roles over the coming decade.”

The Building Australian Rail Skills for the Future report, released last year, identified shortages in roles including signalling engineers, electrical technicians, track workers and tunnellers, as well as emerging roles in fields such as automation and data analytics.

Ms Wilkie said part of the campaign would highlight the potential of rail apprenticeships, which could lead to roles such as electrical lines person, electrician technician and fitter with starting salaries higher than $90,000.

Cody Beard, from Coorparoo in Queensland, recently took on an electric rail apprenticeship after starting in the industry as a trades assistant.

The 21-year-old said the role involved repairing equipment including track-laying and tampering machines, while also allowing him to work with professionals in other fields.

“Even though I’m doing electrical, a lot of the time I’m working with mechanics and boilermakers so even though you’re in one field, you can learn a lot of things,” he said.

“I love it – it’s constantly changing work.”

Rail projects underway in Australia include the $14.5 billion Inland Rail project designed to establish a 1700km rail link between Melbourne and Brisbane, through regional Victoria, NSW and Queensland, completing the national rail network.

Other rail investments include the 15.5km Sydney Metro Project, 9km Melbourne Metro Tunnel, 27km Melbourne Airport Rail Link, and Brisbane’s 10.2km Cross River Rail project.


Jennifer Dudley-Nicholson
(Australian Associated Press)


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