Tradies hijacked in worker battle

Gladstone Solar Power owner Ian North says the shortage of tradesmen in town has made it difficult keep on top of the workload.
Gladstone Solar Power owner Ian North says the shortage of tradesmen in town has made it difficult keep on top of the workload. Brett Mc Waters GLAWORK

WHEN you talk about the skills shortage in 2012 and beyond, one area is critical - trades people.

Qualified tradies have always been highly sought, but the construction boom in Gladstone region at the moment, specifically on the major projects, has meant that tradies are now more valuable, and harder to get, than ever.

Builders, boiler-makers electricians and other tradies are being snapped up for monumental dollars to work on Curtis Island, Fishermens Landing and all the other billion-dollar projects.

The result is that small and medium businesses are struggling to get the staff they need

Ian North owns Solar Power Gladstone, a small business providing solar and plumbing services.

Like every other small business offering trade services in the Gladstone region, Mr North is struggling with a lack of qualified tradesmen.

"We are losing another one tomorrow," he said. "Going over to (Curtis) Island for the big money."

Solar Power Gladstone employs plumbers and electricians. At the moment he has enough electricians, but attracting plumbers has been a problem since the Gladstone boom began.

Before the boom, he had eight staff. He is now down to six and struggling to find new maintenance plumbers. Ideally, he wants nine staff to cope.

"We have to do 20 to 30 maintenance jobs a day," he said.

"Everyone expects same-day service, but it's virtually impossible because you just can't do it when you are trying to fill that void.

"Our problem is getting specialist maintenance plumbers.

"It's okay getting people who do a lot of houses or industrial work, but we need plumbers with experience on maintenance."

The end result, Mr North said, is that Gladstone residents have to wait longer and pay more for household repair jobs.

In order to compete with the major projects for tradesmen, businesses like Solar Power Gladstone have to charge higher rates to pay higher salaries.

"We eventually have to put our rates up of course, and no one wants to pay extra money to have a plumber come around and do their repairs."

Topics:  skill shortage staff shortage

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