Telcos created NBN skills shortage: union

Telcos created NBN skills shortage: union

Summary: Telstra and the rest of the telco industry have been blamed for the dire lack of skills that could endanger the roll-out of the National Broadband Network.


Telstra and the rest of the telco industry have been blamed for the dire lack of skills that could endanger the roll-out of the National Broadband Network.

In a submission (PDF) to a Lower House inquiry on the benefits of the National Broadband Network, the Communications, Electrical and Plumbing Union (CEPU) pointed to NBN Co estimates that between 15,000 and 25,000 workers would be required to roll out the network and that lobbyist group Innovation and Business Skills Australia had predicted a shortfall of between 7000 and 10,000 telecommunications and electrical technicians.

The CEPU said the privatisation of Telstra by the Howard Government back in the 1990s, along with a lack of investment in training by the rest of the industry, meant that NBN Co would need to conduct a mountain of training to fill the gap.

"Telstra has wound back its internal training programs and other companies have relied to a large degree on the skills of previously Telstra-trained employees to supply skill needs. This source of skilled labour is now drying up as the generation of workers trained within Telstra nears retirement age," the union said.

The CEPU also blamed outsourcing by the telco giant, and pointed at a reluctance within the industry to train employees who might then be "poached" by competitors.

"Together, these trends have led to a decline in the delivery of structured telecommunications training, especially to trade and para-professional levels. As a result, the NBN project now faces the likelihood of skills shortages, especially in regional areas," the union said.

The CEPU welcomed plans by NBN Co to train workers involved in the project, but said it was concerned that much of the required manpower would end up coming from subcontractors, which would undermine skill development and possibly lead to low quality work.

"Cost pressures on all sections of the NBN contracting pyramid can be expected to be intense, but inevitably it is those at the bottom of the hierarchy — the small 'independent' contractors — who feel these pressures most sharply. The likely result is training shortcuts with all their negative implications for work quality, safety and national capability."

The CEPU welcomed the $100 million allocated for Telstra to retrain its employees with skills required for the NBN as part of the government's $11 billion deal with the telco. However, the union said that the training should be focused on the long-term skills needed for the telecommunications industry, rather than those required for the build of the NBN alone.

NBN Co CEO Mike Quigley highlighted in Senate Estimates hearings last month that the Queensland floods could also exacerbate the skills shortage, as work is focused on repair efforts in the state.

The Federal Government has attempted to ease the anticipated shortage by refining the skilled migration occupation list to target telecommunications industry-related skills.

Topics: Government, Broadband, Government AU, Telcos, Telstra, NBN, IT Employment


Armed with a degree in Computer Science and a Masters in Journalism, Josh keeps a close eye on the telecommunications industry, the National Broadband Network, and all the goings on in government IT.

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  • Less trained people equals more money for the people who are trained ;)
    • .... and even more when they become consultants ;)
  • @ PhillIT Great minds think alike ;) I'm already set up & tooled up for the NBN however I'm thinking there could be better money to make in the mines, specially when there is already a shortage of technicians.
  • There...

    See how easy it is for pro and anti NBNers to agree!
  • The technology of the future will only be as good as the skills, and the development of the skills, of the people in the present.

    At one end, you have the older workhorses, those who have spent years developing, providing, upgrading and changing systems, and are now nearing retirement, and at the other end you have young, fresh-faced youths who, while they may have dabbled in these fields, and possibly even did quite well, do not have the field experience to be taken seriously (I'm one of the latter... *sigh*). There isn't a lot of middle ground to work with either (experienced enough to know what to do, but young enough to keep going for quite some time), and it's that middle ground that is vied for most rigorously in this day and age.
    • Touche! Tech Kid unfortunately our new generation of Tech Savvy Gen Y's simply lack the benefit of the depth of experience in your Gen X teachers that can only be obtained over a long time in the field. For this you can thank the Gen X style of management that on one hand dismissed the value of that very depth of experience gained by the Boomers in developing and deploying the framework of much of the todays tech in favour of the five minute dip into the pool of many different skills which they deemed to be a much superior skill base. Unfortunately there is now a massive gap in between the technical ability which is gained by performing one type of development which was the standard of the Boomer Generation of Techs and Gen Y who now have to pick up the ball that was dropped in the epic fail of the Gen X management style. I hope you have the courage to stick to your technical stream of choice and continue to promote and develop your skills over the long term, perhaps then we might be able to get back on course to a rediscovery of a significant long term skills base in this country.
      • hooray for you how true!
        Blank Look
  • what are the chances of a trained south african getting a job there ?
    dale tribe
    • I suggest you get in touch with RS............he seems to think that he knows everything there is to know, about the NBN !
  • LOL... more endless wisdom NOT from Wally.

    You are the only person on earth who uses the letters RS more than vowels...LOL!!!!

    But thanks for returning A G A I N... it gives me a chance to advise everyone of your investment knowledge...LOL!

    TLS paid - $8
    Now worth - $2.60 (just 5c from all time lows)...LOL!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    As I said about a week ago... it's "almost time to buy in"... enjoy those losses!
  • FFS, who paid what for shares is not exactly relevant to this site and is getting old. If you are trying to point out that certain posters on this forum have a vested interest in Telstra's success, just say that and be done with it. If people want stock prices, they'll go to the asx site.
  • Feeling the TLS pinch too eh? LOL... it's all becoming clearer.

    Feel free to skip my comments (can't can you?).

    Listen, whilst ever children/losers, insist on using my name (well initials) AT EVERY THREAD AND EVERY COMMENT... (such is the level they have been burned...LOL) for no apparent reason, I will fire back...

    If you don't like it BAD LUCK...!
  • No TLS pinch here. Never owned the stock. I was just trying to help you make your posts more concise for the benefit of all readers.
  • Thanks so much for your concern, but having commented factually and thus to the detriment and embarrassment of trolling FUDsters many times... I think I can manage.
  • Ooh BTW.

    To be fair, great performance from Telstra on the ASX today. A 1.92% increase when the Dow was tanked!

    Along with Brambles and an upbeat result from Myer probably the standouts, by the biggies today.
  • Finally they are now recognising that there is going to be a skills shortage,,, something I have been telling them for many years,,, but its too late now
  • There will also be a shortage of subcontractors which due to Telstra's penny pinching antics over the last 4 years are fast leaving the business as they are fed up trying to run a company on peanuts.