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nbn external workforce

NBN external workforce needs to double

The workforce available to the NBN’s Delivery Partners needs to nearly double, according to the recently released nbn Corporate Plan 2017.

The plan forecasts that the skilled external workforce will peak at some 10,000 people in 2018 in line with roll-out projections.

nbn’s current targets require it to more than double its construction rate over the next two years, rising from 1.7 million premises made Ready For Service (RFS) in 2016 to 3.7 million in 2018.  Activation rates are forecast to double year-on-year over the same period.

The 10,000 figure is considerably less than the 25,000 jobs a year, peaking at 37,000, forecast at the time the NBN project was launched in 2009 – but that figure was based on a generous estimate of the “multiplier” effect ie jobs that might be created as a spin-off from the roll-out as it was underway.

Two years later, the estimate was revised downwards, with the company calculating it would need some 16,000 workers on the actual roll-out, the majority of them at lower skill levels. At the time, the company expressed confidence that the estimated 3,000 “cablers” could be easily supplied out of the existing industry pool.

Now the number is smaller again – and yet still the NBN faces a skill shortage, with a new training programme only just beginning to get underway!

Admittedly, changes in the NBN technology mix since 2013 have complicated workforce planning. But skilled labour supply has always been one to the major issues facing the project, as the CWU pointed out in early 2008.

Successive governments have patently failed to address this question adequately. The challenge now is how to ensure that over the next two years the enlarged workforce has the appropriate training – and working conditions – to produce a high quality outcome for this enormously expensive infrastructure project.

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