Is Australia entering a construction trade shortage?
There has been discussion about whether there are enough available apprentices that have undergone training to replace construction workers entering retirement, and to meet growing demands for labour. This begs the question: is a construction trade shortage in Australia's future?
Research informs us that there may be good reason to become concerned. Over the next five years it appears that Australia will require an additional 47,800 building tradespeople.
It's estimated that back in 2010, about 14 percent of tradespeople were at least 55 years of age or above. If one does the math, this means that 17,000 to 26,000 new apprentices will be necessary to replace those who will retire.
What makes these figures even more alarming is that they don't account for replacing workers that will be be promoted or quitting their jobs for more favourable options. As a matter of fact, over the last five years, a mere 61,600 were able to finish their apprenticeships. According to the Department of Employment, these are staggering numbers that demand attention.
If the status quo remains, wages will only continue to climb along with trade prices. Inadvertently, housing will become less affordable and so will building infrastructure, making the prospect of foreign labour enticing, and perhaps necessary. It's therefore important to encourage apprenticeship programs: we need more people to train and for employers to offer it.
According to Richard Hayes who is the director of the Manufacturing, Engineering and Electrotechnology Faculty of TAFE NSW, the problem may lie in the fact that Australia is currently in the business of encouraging young people to attend university as opposed to entering trades.
The quota removal in universities has also attracted more young people. There's also the notion that there's only one type of success that exists and it isn't inclusive of the trade or construction world, but this is unfounded.
Hayes also feels that it's a good time to reconsider increasing the age at which individuals can leave school or move into trades training if they wish. While there's currently no crisis, it's essential for Australia to have more people complete trade based apprenticeships. This can be accomplished through the promotion of available opportunities in the trades industry as well as via the support and encouragement of present apprentices.
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