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North-West shelf manpower requirements

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The workforce requirements of the North-West Shelf natural gas project would present a challenge to Government, industry and unions, the Minister for Employment and Youth Affairs, Mr Ian Viner, said today.

"I can give a clear commitment from the Commonwealth Government that it will provide all possible support to ensure that the labour demands of this great undertaking are met”, he said.

Mr Viner was speaking at a seminar held in Geraldton, WA, to discuss the likely effects of the Shelf development on the Geraldton region.

He told the seminar that apart from the peak construction workforce of 6,000 and the operational staff of around 800, there would be a multiplier effect resulting in the creation

of many more thousands of new job opportunities.

"There will obviously be a need for workers with new skills capable of meeting the technological challenge involved but there will also be many openings for people in the traditional trades areas", said Mr Viner.

"The Commonwealth has been working with the States on the framework of a new program which will be aimed at supplementing the output of skilled workers from the existing apprenticeship system. It is known as the Complementary Trade Training

Program and is designed to provide additional tradesmen through increased attendance of trainees at technical training institutions to accelerate the acquisition of skills.

"It can also be a vehicle to allow older people to obtain a trade certificate.

"In addition, proposals have been advanced which allow for some trades assistants and other semi-skilled workers who are experienced in work allied to that of a tradesman to upgrade their skills to trade level.

"These proposals are being examined by the Commonwealth and Western Australian Governments expressly with the requirements of the North-West Shelf in mind.

"A senior officer of my Department has been in Perth this week discussing all these matters with State Government officials and industry and union representatives.

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"Commonwealth Government support for apprenticeship training, including the CRAFT scheme which provides special subsidies for employers, amounted to more than $28 million in the 1978-79 financial year and was of direct assistance to over 56,000 apprentices".

Mr Viner said that as well as increasing the numbers of Australian-trained workers there was obviously a continuing need for a certain level of input from migration.

"There are some areas where the skill shortages within this country are too great to be made up in the reasonably short term from our own resources and we must therefore look to overseas migration to help fill these gaps.

"In no sense should this recruitment be seen as undesirable at a time of higher than usual local unemployment. On the contrary, it has been shown over the years that a selected migration program can provide key personnel without whom

development projects would not have been able to proceed.

"My Department maintains the closest liaison with the Department of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs so that existing and future areas of labour shortage can be identified and remedial action taken".


17 August 1979