The Department of Defence and its suppliers are set to go to war with the NBN Co for skilled workers in the near future as the national shortage begins to take its toll on planned major infrastructure projects.
Minister for Defence Materiel, Senator Kim Carr, said in a statement yesterday that the Defence Department will spend over $200 billion on the nation's Defence Force over the next 10 years, adding that the Defence and its relevant suppliers will need skilled workers to work on projects including the Future Submarine Project — one of the largest missions embarked upon by the department.
Those workers are likely to be hard to come by, however, according to the senator, with the Labor Government's $35.9 billion National Broadband Network (NBN) drawing a lot of the nation's skilled resources.
"A steady supply of steelworkers, welders, electricians and mechanics is needed, among many other trades. And we also need engineers, systems analysts, accountants and specialists in air and marine transport. Defence suppliers can expect to face significant competition for skilled labour from the resources sector and large-scale infrastructure projects including the National Broadband Network.
"This competition for skills could create challenges for the Australian defence industry," Carr said.
His statements came at the launch of a discussion paper by Skills Australia (PDF) that looks to assess the physical workforce required to complete the nation's ambitious defence strategy. ZDNet Australia is still awaiting a response from Carr's office on how many workers would be required to complete the nation's defence infrastructure strategy over the next decade.
The Communications, Electrical and Plumbing Union (CEPU) estimated last year that it would take between 15,000 and 25,000 skilled workers to deploy the nationwide fibre network. The Innovation and Business Skills Australia added that the infrastructure project would be facing a shortfall of between 7000 and 10,000 electrical and telecommunications technicians.
The rebuilding effort from last year's devastating Queensland floods have also been cited as a major drain on the nation's skilled labour market, which could even delay the NBN itself.
The Federal Government has proposed a number of strategies to ease the burden of a skilled labour shortage, including a push to boost skilled migration.