Skilled worker shortage a problem

Terry Purcell (right), owner of Purcell’s Lineboring and Engineering, with machinist Colin Bruckner.
Terry Purcell (right), owner of Purcell’s Lineboring and Engineering, with machinist Colin Bruckner. Chrissy Harris GLAPURC

IT DOESN'T matter whether they are selling shoes or fixing cars - small businesses across the Gladstone region are all facing the same problems.

Terry Purcell runs his own business, Purcell Lineboring and Engineering. He names two issues causing headaches for his business.

"The number one difficulty is trying to get skilled workers," he said.

"Certainly when there is a lot of money around (the big industrial projects) it's going to be a challenge to get and keep your guys.

"Keeping enough skilled workers and finding enough skilled workers is obviously a problem for everybody."

The second major problem Mr Purcell identifies is accommodation.

He said a small business can advertise a job, receive an applicant, offer them the job and have them say yes, only to find out the worker cannot find accommodation and has to pull out.

"We've actually (also) lost an employee, not because he went over to (Curtis) Island for big wages, but through him not wanting to pay $600 a week rent, so he's packed up and gone back where he came from," Mr Purcell said.

Another challenge is high costs. Mr Purcell says a client will ask him to prepare a quote for manufacturing certain products, and because of the need to pay higher wages in Gladstone, it was extremely difficult to create the product at the same price as a business in Brisbane.

"It is great to have all these big businesses come to our community, but what people don't realise is it drives up the cost of everything."


Finding and keeping staff

Some strategies for businesses to keep staff include:

  • Offering more flexible work hours
  • Getting married women back into the workforce
  • Enticing recently retired workers back into the workforce in a modified role eg. training, supervision etc
  • Actively seeking newly arrived migrants who are entering the country with their wives or husbands under the migration skills program
  • Diversifying the business to cater for the current market
  • Training and providing support for local people to be skilled and employed

Topics:  gladstone small business

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