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Looking for Young Workers to Bridge the Gap of 70,000 Railway Jobs

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Australia’s peak railway body has launched a campaign to recruit young workers to address a skills shortage of 70,000 roles in the industry.

The Australasian Railway Association’s Work in Rail campaign aims to attract school graduates as research shows that workers under the age of 25 make up only four percent of the industry’s workforce.

This shortage persists despite starting salaries for these roles being higher than $90,000 (US$58,333) per year.

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The rail campaign is in response to increasing investment in rail infrastructure and a report indicating that ongoing skills shortages are expected in Australia due to the pandemic.

Caroline Wilkie, CEO of the Australasian Railway Association, stressed the need to attract and train workers to complete state and national rail projects.

“With a $155 billion pipeline of projects planned in the next 15 years and an aging workforce, it is absolutely critical that we increase the number of younger workers,” she said.

“We particularly encourage young people to consider electrical apprenticeships as there is predicted significant growth in electrical-related roles in the next decade.”

The Building Australian Rail Skills for the Future report, released last year, highlighted shortages in various roles such as signalling engineers, electrical technicians, track workers, tunnellers, as well as emerging roles in automation and data analytics.

According to Ms. Wilkie, the campaign will emphasize the potential of rail apprenticeships that can lead to roles like electrical lines person, electrician technician, and fitter with starting salaries higher than $90,000.

Cody Beard, from Coorparoo in Queensland, recently embarked on an electric rail apprenticeship after starting as a trades assistant in the industry.

The 21-year-old described the role as involving equipment repairs, including track-laying and tampering machines, while also providing opportunities to collaborate with professionals from other fields.

“Even though I’m doing electrical work, I often work with mechanics and boilermakers, so despite specializing in one area, I can learn a lot of different things,” he said.

“I love it–it’s a job that constantly evolves.”

Active rail projects in Australia include the $14.5 billion Inland Rail project to establish a 1700km rail link between Melbourne and Brisbane, completing the national rail network through regional Victoria, New South Wales, and Queensland.

Other rail investments include the 15.5km Sydney Metro Project, 9km Melbourne Metro Tunnel, 27km Melbourne Airport Rail Link, and Brisbane’s 10.2km Cross River Rail project.

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