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Measuring the jobs and skills needed to build the next generation of public infrastructure

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Infrastructure Australia is the nation’s independent infrastructure adviser. It advises governments, industry and the community on the investments and reforms needed to deliver better infrastructure for all Australians.

Demand for public infrastructure is rising

Australia has an unprecedented pipeline of public infrastructure projects, with demand having almost tripled in the past seven years. To prepare, Infrastructure Australia is assessing market capacity and capability across many dimensions to understand potential problems in projects progressing.

Infrastructure Australia asked us to assess the current and projected workforce supply for public infrastructure and compare with estimates of demand.

We projected labour supply and shortages, offering insights into granular challenges

To develop a picture of workforce supply across Australia, we combined traditional labour market and education sector data – from the Australian Bureau of Statistics and the National Centre for Vocational Education Research – and non-traditional data – including job advertisement data from Lightcast (then known as Burning Glass).

We estimated the current workforce supply, broken down by occupation, location and readiness to transition into public infrastructure projects. We then projected the size and skills of the future workforce and compared this to demand estimates for public infrastructure. This allowed us to identify the shortfalls that may prevent or delay infrastructure projects. Each occupation was assessed for the extent to which it was already in shortage, based on government and industry assessments, and quantitative indicators.

We also investigated specific roles within occupations, and the specific skills needed across industries. This allowed us to get more insight than traditional analyses. For example, we identified that a shortage of environmental professionals was actually focused in senior roles, and so would not be solved with new graduates.

Finally, our analysis in 2021 found that infrastructure workforce will be 48 per cent short of demand in the following two years, with national shortages as high as 105,000 roles.

Dashboard informs public understanding and agency decisions

As well as producing a public report in 2021, we provided data for use in a public dashboard and established a more granular dashboard for Infrastructure Australia to track changes in the data over time.

After this initial project in 2021, we worked with Infrastructure Australia to expand the scope of the data to include a broader range of public infrastructure as well as some privately funded projects. To do this, we reviewed every step and added new dimensions, as well as updating and refreshing data and re-validating the analyses.

As of October 2022, we found public infrastructure projects, including small projects, face a shortage of 213,000 skilled workers. This shortage is projected to grow, and Australia will continue to face severe shortages in the workforce available for public infrastructure until at least 2026.

We are commencing a second update of the analysis in 2023, which will further extend the breadth to provide insights to Infrastructure Australia, Australian governments and the infrastructure industry.

What you can learn from this project

Workforce shortages have the potential to be a major constraint on growth for some industries.

Robust data analysis requires combining data from multiple sources, including proprietary sources that may not be widely accessible.

Presenting data in a dashboard format can allow for easy updating as circumstances change and help inform major decisions.