• Pic: WorldSkills
    Pic: WorldSkills

Weld Australia has revealed fabricators are being forced to turn down work due to a shortage of skilled welders.

These are not occasional jobs being turned down but a considerable volume of work, according to the results of Weld Australia’s 2022 members survey.

Weld Australia CEO, Geoff Crittenden, said the survey was distributed to members in June and completed by 140 companies.

Asked what they are concerned about the most, 64 per cent of senior managers cited lack of skilled staff in an extremely constrained recruitment market.

Crittenden wasn’t surprised by the results pointing out that Australia will need an additional 70,000 welders by the end of the decade.

“With a considerable volume of work being onshored in the wake of international supply chain disruptions, most Australian fabrication companies are so strapped for skilled welders that they are working at anywhere between 30 to 50 per cent of their full capacity,” he said.

“They are being forced to turn down jobs because they simply don’t have the manpower to complete the work.

“This is having a major impact on production and causing delays throughout downstream industries including building and construction, mining, oil and gas, and manufacturing.”

Almost half (47 per cent) of survey respondents have a pipeline of work that extends beyond six months.

This compares to the 2020 members survey when the main pipeline of work didn’t go past four weeks.

“Given the concern over Australia’s looming skills crisis, it makes sense that 95 per cent of respondents support the concept of free TAFE, increased funding to upgrade TAFE facilities, or both,” Crittenden said.

“Clearly, the welding industry is looking to the government to help increase the supply of skilled labour over the coming years.

“Our members are also investing in their own welder training programs. For example, BHP, Komatsu, JRS Manufacturing, Maxi-Trans and Precision Manufacturing Group have all established their own schools.”

Crittenden said industry is also investing in advanced welding technology to help overcome the skills shortage.

He said more than 28 per cent of respondents indicated that their company or the company they work for has purchased robots or cobots while a further 25 per cent have invested in  Industry 4.0 capabilities.

Other technology listed by respondents included drones, automated welders and a range of software solutions.

Despite the skills shortage, local procurement and content targets remain top of mind for the welding industry.

There is 100 per cent support from respondents for federal and state government policies to increase Australia’s share of fabricated steel product to at least 75 per cent as part of a joint government-industry plan to grow the manufacturing industry.

“Importantly, whether it is imported or locally manufactured, all fabricated steel erected in Australia must comply with Australian Standards,” Crittenden said.

“Weld Australia is committed to ensuring that no Australian lives are lost through an accident caused by non-compliant welding, without causing undue regulatory burden on industry. We firmly believe in quality welding for structural safety.”

Inflation and rising costs were also of concern for approximately 23 per cent of respondents, followed by weak international supply chains (nine per cent) and reliability and affordability of power supply (four per cent).