Skilled staff shortages
Painters and joiners could be retrained by the council as it looks to fill vacancies left due to other skilled workers being snapped up by the private sector.
This was the situation explained by the director of infrastructure services Maggie Sandison following a meeting of the harbour board yesterday.
Mrs Sandison had told members that skilled workers were being lost in harbour and port operations due to the demand from the private sector.
Afterwards Mrs Sandison explained marine engineers are heading into offshore work and engineers and electricians were being attracted to the oil and gas industry.
She said the lack of skilled workers was having an impact right “across the directorate” even down to carrying out repair work on lampposts. Infrastructure services covers areas such as ferries, harbour and ports and roads.
“What we’re having to look at now is if we can skill up existing staff,” said Mrs Sandison. “We are looking at painters and joiners to see if they can take on potential skills but obviously that’s not a quick fix.”
In a report to members, Mrs Sandison also spoke about a drop in overtime costs because of the reduction in staff. She explained afterwards that staff were already being worked as much as they could.
During the meeting, councillor Amanda Westlake asked whether workers could be offered more overtime as opposed to turning to the private sector. She suspected that using contractors to carry out work was “quite expensive”.
Mrs Sandison said an assessment of costs would be carried out to compare in-house work to looking elsewhere.
She explained contractors do not have to be paid all year round, however they were also charging to make a profit. Key skills were in electrical and engineering skills, she said.
But she added: “There’s such a demand I don’t think we can actually compete with the private sector at this time.”
• Full report of SIC harbour board meeting in this week’s Shetland Times.