GE's chief executive in Australia, Steve Sargent, says the company is doing its part to train local workers for the almost $200 billion of liquefied natural gas projects under construction around the country and help fill the gap in skilled labour.
The United States-owned group will provide over 4000 days of training to its customers' employees and its own workers next year at its new $US100 million service and maintenance facility in Perth, Mr Sargent said.
"We are doing our part here to help address some of the skills challenges," he said.
On July 20, GE announced that it had won a contract worth over $US600 million from Chevron for maintenance and servicing on key pieces of equipment it has supplied for the energy company's $US43 billion Gorgon LNG project.
It has also locked in a similar contract with Inpex's Ichthys venture in Darwin and it is aiming for service contracts with the other LNG ventures in Western Australia and Queensland, which it has already agreed to supply equipment to.
The huge Gorgon venture is seen as one of the most vulnerable to skilled labour shortages and productivity issues, which could threaten its budget and five-year construction schedule.
But Mr Sargent said the modularised form of construction being used for much of the equipment supplied by GE is helping insulate it from those problems. Most of the modules are built in Europe and the US, minimising work that needs to be carried out on the remote Barrow Island site for the onshore LNG project.
GE has also more than tripled employee numbers in its oil and gas business on the west coast from just 120 in 2010 to about 400, and it will expand its workforce to about 600 by the end of the decade to support the new contracts, Mr Sargent said.
Copyright 2012 Fairfax Media Publications Pty. Limited. All Rights Reserved.
(Originally published July 23, 2012, in Australian Financial Review.)