Western Sydney drives skills boom

One-third of the workforce on the Western Sydney Airport construction, one of Australia’s largest infrastructure projects, are learning new skills.

According to Western Sydney Airport (WSA) CEO Simon Hickey, ‘learning’ workers account for 30% of the workforce, exceeding the project’s target of 20%. Among them are trainees, graduates, apprentices and workers training to upgrade their qualifications and skills.

“We are focused on setting our workforce up for success, wherever their careers may take them after Western Sydney Airport, which is why we are passionate about upskilling and providing on-the-job training,” Hickey said.

WSA offers several initiatives to provide on-the-job training for locals, including traineeships for high school graduates and opportunities for university graduates to kickstart their careers as well as pre-employment programmes with TAFE (Technical and Further Education) and CSIRO (The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation) to inspire Western Sydney high school students to take up careers in aviation and STEM.

Quakers Hill local Samantha Salkeld went straight from high school to designing an international airport, joining the airport’s design team under WSA’s trainee program, undertaking full-time work while also achieving a TAFE qualification.

“This is my first job out of high school, and I get the opportunity to help design an international airport, using design to show the world what Western Sydney is all about,” Salkeld said. “It’s an incredible career opportunity and it’ll be amazing come 2026 when the airport opens to say, ‘I helped build that’.”

North Parramatta local Alieu Turay is also learning on the job, joining WSA’s major earthworks team in 2020 when he was new to the Australian construction industry, having arrived in Australia as a refugee from Sierra Leone.

Through training programmes offered by WSA’s major earthworks contractor CPB Contractors and ACCIONA joint venture, Turay has worked his way from a labourer to driving a roller and is now operating a CAT651 Scraper, one of the largest earthmoving machines on site, as well as completing a Certificate IV in Work Health and Safety.

“As a beneficiary of the opportunities this project is creating for the Western Sydney community, I am proud to be working on one of the biggest earthmoving projects Australia has ever seen and grateful that such an opportunity is right on my doorstep,” he said. “I’m learning skills and gaining qualifications on this project that will open up new career pathways for me in the future.”

CEO Hickey added that the airport would create further training opportunities as terminal construction ramps up and once runway construction commences later this year.