Report pinpoints rail’s skills shortages

The industry’s chronic skills and labour shortages show no signs of abating with a number of occupations predicted to be in skill demand throughout 2012, according to a discussion paper released by the Transport and Logistics Skills Council (TLISC) that details key findings from its upcoming 2012 Environmental Scan.

According to TLISC’s discussion paper, the occupations across Australia’s rail industry that will be in skill demand in 2012 will be:

  • Train Drivers
  • Signalling technicians
  • Railway track workers
  • Team leader infrastructures
  • Track patrollers/inspectors
  • Rail trainers/assessors
  • Guards/conductors
  • Overhead wiring technicians
  • Civil specialists

The barriers to overcoming rail’s skills and labour shortages as identified by the discussion paper are:

  • Loss of experienced and skilled workers due to competition from the resources sector
  • Increased demand for employment due to new rail projects coming on line
  • Ageing workforce
  • Electrification of rail impacting on skill requirements
  • Complex legislative and regulatory frameworks

TLISC general manager, strategy and policy, Amanda Thomas, emphasised that workforce ageing will continue to be a significant barrier to maintaining an appropriately skilled workforce within the rail sector.

On a positive note, the discussion paper also identified solutions to the rail industry’s skills and labour shortages as well as potential sources of labour, including:

  • Employment of workers from non-traditional sources of the labour market – including part-time and recent migrants who possess transferable skills
  •  Utilisation of the rural and remote labour force
  • Promoting the rail sector as a career path at school and community levels
  • Increasing training as a recruitment and retention tool
  • Expanding the numbers of trainers and assessors to provide flow-on impacts at the business level.

TLISC released the discussion paper to provide stakeholders with the key findings from the 2012 Environmental Scan (E-Scan) industry consultation process prior to publication of the E-Scan in February.

The 2012 E-Scan process highlights the challenges and opportunities impacting Australia’s entire transport and logistics industry, as well as detailing key findings relating to skills and labour shortages in the Logistics Management, Road Transport and Warehousing; Aviation; Maritime; Rail and Ports sectors.

Interested stakeholders are invited to provide comment on any of the findings Monday 30th January 2012.

For further information contact:
Amanda Thomas
Phone: (02) 6163 7227

Leanne Mundy
Phone: (02) 6163 7209

TLISC’s E-Scan will be available for download as of February at:

Rail turnout - RISSB

TLISC: helping tackle rail’s skills shortages

The Transport Industry Skills Council (TLISC) provides advice to industry on workforce planning initiatives, training package development and the vocational education training system. Rail Express spoke with TLISC CEO Robert Adams.

REX: Robert, you are the new CEO at TLISC, how have you found your first few months?

Adams: Well, I have come on board at a very busy period. Luckily I had been involved with the Skills Council for the last 11 years as a member of the board, and as such am no stranger to the organisation.

The fact that I am not new to the sector has been of great advantage. Previously I worked as a management consultant in the rail industry and for the last 11 years I was with one of the largest road transport companies in Australia, TNT.

REX: Australian rail’s chronic skills shortages have been talked about a lot in recent times. What is your take on this issue?

Adams: I think that one of the key emerging issues is that the industry currently faces a lot of competition for skilled workers. If we look to the two speed economy, a lot of the skills that are in the transport and logistics area are transferable to other sectors. As a result in rail we see significant competition from the mining and resources area for our workers.

The challenge is to improve the skill development process and work with rail companies to  construct and implement retention strategies. This will ensure that we have the workforce available to support the freight needs of Australia.

There is also a real need to broaden recruitment by attracting new segments to the rail labour market.

REX: Can TLISC help rail organisations to broaden their recruitment and retention strategies?

Adams: There are a number of ways that we can help rail organisations train and retain staff. One way is through the enhancement of the Training Packages that form the qualifications. Making sure that qualifications match actual job roles means that workers have the right skills to do the jobs at hand.

The other way TLISC is helping is by working nationally with the rail industry to develop the workforce planning agenda. This will support the industry to develop the workforce that will be required, both now and in the near future.

REX: Are many rail organisations using the services that TLISC offer for workforce planning?

Adams: Yes, there are a number of rail companies making the most of current funding opportunities. Recently two companies were successful, with assistance from TLISC, in getting their submissions up for the Federal Government’s Critical Skills Investment Fund.

REX: What is currently happening with TLISC’s rail Training Package development?

Adams: There is a lot of work currently being undertaken in the rail sections of the TLI10 Training Package. This work is aimed at driving the national agenda around updating the rail qualifications.

We have taken a very consultative and inclusive approach to try and make certain that we get the right industry input and the technical advice. This will ensure that we deliver qualifications and skill sets that will meet the needs of the rail industry.

REX: I hear there may be a Diploma level qualification soon. Is this true?

Adams: Yes, we are looking at developing a diploma level qualification that will provide a pathway from the Certificate IV level into higher level job roles. This diploma could provide an entry into the rail industry for people coming from other areas such as project management or even engineering. This will allow professionals to join the rail industry at a higher level.

We are looking at developing a rail infrastructure diploma first, with the aim that it will be available to industry by 2013. There has also been similar interest expressed for a rail operations diploma.

REX: How are the new Rail Operations qualifications progressing?

Adams: Our rail specialist, Rae Fossard, is currently working with industry on developing a variety of new qualifications, for example, electric passenger train driving for metropolitan services, heavy haul driving (both freight and passenger) and yard operations. Over the next year work will broaden and include areas such as station operations.

REX: One of TLISC’s key tasks is to gather industry intelligence and provide analysis. How does this work?

Adams: As part of our contractual arrangements with the Australian Government we conduct analysis of T&L industry and enterprise skill needs. It is undertaken over a short time period each year and relies on ‘real time’ evidence captured across industry.

The result of this extensive engagement with the sector is a detailed document called the T&L Industry Environmental Scan. It is designed to advise enterprise and government on key challenges and projected skill needs with the transport and logistics area.

REX: What is the Environmental Scan data and analysis used for?

Adams: The government uses the Environmental Scan information, along with other intelligence, when creating policy and making funding decisions. For example, if we identify specific economic challenges it can assist the government in developing strategies and policies to address those needs.

The scan also provides an up-to-date overview of the levels of participation in funded training activities and highlights potential opportunities for further investment in skills development.

Industry and training organisations also use the analysis to gain an overview of the current T&L environment. It can assist them with their planning and decision making for subsequent years.

We would welcome the input from the rail sector as we undertake the intelligence gathering process between now and the end of the year. Please visit our website ( to find out more.

The resulting Environmental Scan will be published next February.

REX: When gathering information about the sector do you only get input from enterprise?

Adams: No, we cast a very wide net. We try to get a diverse range of people and organisations that are involved in various activities in the sector. This means that we are talking to enterprises, unions, associations and institutions that have vested interests in this area. It is a very comprehensive process that we undertake and we are always looking to increase the number of organisations and people that are interested in providing feedback.

REX: Are there new developments on the horizon at TLISC?

Adams: TLISC has just gone through an in-depth strategic planning process and is now looking forward to continuing its important work in four key areas. These are:

  • High quality development and continuous improvement of training products and value-add services to support excellence in training delivery and assessment across the tertiary sector.
  • Contemporary, high quality analysis and intelligence on the profile and skills needs of the current and future transport and logistics workforce.
  • Increasing enterprise productivity through contemporary skills and workforce development practices.
  • Repositioning transport and logistics as an attractive, valued and rewarding place to work.

For more information on the work being undertaken by the Transport and Logistics Industry Skills Council visit:

New websites target industry skills dilemma

Industry has gone online to combat rail’s critical skills shortages and recently held interactive workshops to launch two new workforce development websites.

The Skilled Migration Kit and Portfolio of Best Practice Attraction and Image Strategies were developed by the CRC in conjunction with the Australasian Railway Association (ARA) and member companies to provide industry with practical strategies, information and solutions in its recruitment process.

While rail in Australia currently employs in excess of 100,000 staff, industry is facing major workforce challenges including a global skills shortage in trades and engineering; an ageing workforce, with 40% of staff leaving in the next five years; and education trends, with younger workers less likely to take on blue collar roles and rail not being seen as an employer of choice – or not considered at all.

At the same time, demand for rail is on the increase as a result of significant rail infrastructure investment; increased demand in passenger and freight services; technological advances; development in the resources sector; and increased customer expectations including customer service standards and reliability.

Alarmingly, growth in the Industry means that rail needs to attract around 7300 workers over the next five years across the fields of operations, trades and engineering to meet the increased demand for rail.

At the same time, rail needs to compete for these staff with the mining, electricity, water, gas and construction industries who face the same challenges.

“These two projects are the culmination of cutting-edge, industry-driven research projects facilitated by the CRC,” CRC chief executive David George said.

“Both projects will improve the rail industry’s ability to attract and retain domestic and international project managers, technical workers and engineers to ensure that rail can compete with other industries to secure enough skilled workers to replace its retiring workforce.”

The Portfolio of Best Practice Attraction and Image Strategies provides examples of branding and attraction strategies based on research with students, teachers, careers advisors, recruiters, marketers and HR practitioners that can be adopted by rail.

The website includes quizzes designed to have the viewer consider their own perceptions about rail careers, information from marketeers and examples from industry where rail careers are portrayed strongly. It also includes examples from other industries and national approaches to improving image issues, branding, national initiatives in schools and universities and being an employer of choice.

The Skilled Migration Information Kit provides industry with key information for recruiting skilled migrants from both offshore and onshore.

The kit enables practitioners, such as human resources managers and operations managers, to be well-informed about the practical requirements and realities of recruiting migrants through Australia’s skilled migration visa options. It cover issues such as the decision to recruit, costs and return on investment, marketing tools, relocation and settlement to assist in addressing the skills shortages the industry faces.

The kit has links to documents, videos, animations, You Tube clips of recruitment campaigns and websites that have been selected as good practice exemplars to act as a starting point for the rail industry in skilled migrant recruitment.

“The three interactive launches provided useful workshops for Industry HR managers, workforce planners, marketers, branding managers and line managers to come together, share the recruitment challenges they face and discuss practical methods to ensure rail can combat the skilled shortages issue and come out ahead,” George said.

The websites can both be found at under the HR and Training tab.

Rail Careers conference: don’t miss out!

With the GFC seemingly behind us, and with the rail industry hardly feeling a bump, it continues to look for solutions to mitigate the effects of the skills shortages that are currently and increasingly upon us.

None of the old issues like infrastructure investment, technological change and competition from the resources sector have gone away, in fact with the government continuing to stimulate the economy and the resources boom bouncing back faster than it fell, the demand for skilled workers is under more pressure than before.
The Australasian Railway Association (ARA) continues to press the point that individual organisations cannot solve the challenges by themselves or with individual responses such as recruitment or immigration.
A strong, strategic industry workforce development plan with collaborative buy in from all segments of the industry is what is required to help solve these challenges.
Rail Careers 2010, to be held in Brisbane on May 13th-14th, aims to collaboratively formulate a plan of attack to get major rail works underway and delivered on time and will focus on the key workforce priorities for rail, as set down by the Rail Skills & Careers Council (RSCC).
Areas of focus include:
.Workforce planning
.Attraction & industry image
.Culture, employee engagement & retention
.Career pathways
.Skills development
.Succession planning & knowledge management
.Communication & collaboration
Guest speakers will include researchers and experts from within and outside the industry including:
.Danny Broad, Executive General Manager – Freight Services, Downer EDI
.Brian Appleby, Executive Director People, Public Transport Authority WA
.Jenny McAuliffe, Human Resources Manager, ARTC
.Tony Higgins, HR Manager, WestNet
.Ron Devitt, General Manager, RailCorp Training
.Bryan Nye, CEO, Australasian Railway Association
.Peter Mitchem, Chairman, Capability Task Force, AustRoads
.Robin Shreeve, CEO, Skills Australia
.Dr Amanda Gudmundsson, Director of Graduate Studies, Queensland University of Technology
.Dr Ros Cameron, Lecturer, School of Commerce and Management, Southern Cross University

Places still available
Or call:  (+612) 02 9080 4307

Middletons hails defence, transport and engineering lawyer recruitment

Law firm Middletons has gained Joern Schimmelfeder as a partner in its transport, trade and logistics team in Sydney.

Mr Schimmelfeder had experience in legal issues affecting the defence, transport and engineering industries, Middletons said.

Middletons’s managing partner, Nick Nichola, said. “His rail, aviation and defence expertise is absolutely first class and it provides a logical extension to our maritime, logistics and transport infrastructure work which has been a cornerstone practice area of the firm for the best part of 100 years.”

Sydney Train

Driver shortage halts timetable plan

A driver shortage has forced the New South Wales Government to postpone introduction of its new CityRail timetable.

And introduction of Sydney’s long-awaited new-generation Millennium passenger trains has been put back.

Transport minister Carl Scully said slower-than-expected driver recruitment and a jump in driver retirement forecasts were the reasons for putting the new schedule on hold.

The performance of the present timetable provides “breathing space” for CityRail to put in placerecruitment strategies to overcome the shortfall of around 60 drivers.

“We have been running at better than 92% on time for five of the past six months, exceeding 95% for two of those months,” Mr Scully said.

“It is clear to me that the existing timetable is still operating efficiently.

“I am giving CityRail more time to recruit so that the new timetable can have a full complement of staff when it is introduced.

“Only when I am satisfied that a new timetable will work to the satisfaction of our customers, will I agree to its implementation.”

The Millennium trains face a further delay, two weeks before their scheduled appearance, to sort out a safety problem.

The trains are causing electrical interference with the rail network’s signalling system.

Testing of the trains is continuing while Australian manufacturer EDI works on the problem.

Deliveries will begin in four-car units, with 80 carriages to be delivered by mid-2004.

A further 60 have been ordered to replace aging rolling stock.