The end of the boom: crisis or opportunity?

WA’s mining boom has come to an end, but not everyone is convinced redundant workers will be stuck in the unemployment queue for long.

People Solutions director Mark Greenwood, who has helped place workers in new jobs for more than 20 years, said people were still able to find work.

“The question is, how long is it going to take and which job did they find,” he said.

Economic consulting company Deloitte Access Economics said in the company’s May WA Outlook report the immediate future for WA’s engineering sector was dire.

Deloitte’s research showed business investment as a proportion of the state’s economy had fallen to the same level as in 2007. The company predicted it would fall further before recovering.

The completion of the Gorgon and Wheatstone LNG projects were the biggest contributors to the dip, Deloitte said.

The State Government predicted in its 2016 Budget that business investment in WA would fall for the next two financial years, by 17% and 19% respectively.

Engineers Australia WA Division past president Francis Norman said the employment market for engineers had changed over the past four years.

“One of the big challenges will be there simply isn’t going to be the demand for the big new shiny projects,” he said.

Mr Norman said there would be job opportunities in operating, maintaining and expanding the existing projects.

Total Marine Technology interface engineer Shane Landy was a pipeline and subsea engineer with Woodside for 18 years before being made redundant last year.

He now works four days a week and said it was refreshing to work for a smaller company.

“You get the feel that what you do, and what you don’t do, matters,” he said.

Mr Norman said Perth companies had downsized and were looking for more diverse fields of work.

ARV Offshore owner Rodney Silberstein said he started his company to provide engineering to smaller oil and gas companies.

“Now just about everything is marginal, this should be our time in the sun,” he said.

Mr Silberstein said big companies could be conservative and it took a significant effort to convince them to change their attitude.

He said many engineers had worked on just one mega project for years in a big team and needed to become more flexible.

Postgraduate UWA teaching student Sally Olver, who recently finished working with Chevron on the Gorgon project, said she ended up working in the company’s operations area, but it was not her area of expertise.

“It (teaching) is something I always thought I’d like to do but never thought I’d be any good at,” she said.

“Now having had three teenage daughters, I think I’ve learnt a bit more.”

Ms Olver said her employment prospects were still a concern.

“People say there is such a demand, for maths teachers particularly, although that demand is going to be plugged pretty quickly with all these engineers flooding the market,” she said.

Categories: Business, Economy, Education

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