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Australia is facing a severe shortage of construction workers, with Master Builders Australia estimating that around 486,000 workers will need to enter the industry by 2026 to keep up with demand and replace retirees. The report recommends various measures to tackle this shortage, including addressing bias in career selection, improving gender diversity, and recognizing international qualifications.
The report notes that nearly half of the required workforce will have to fill technician and trade roles, with the vast majority breaking into the sector through a trade apprenticeship. It highlights the need to attract new workers into the industry, retain current and emerging workers, and ensure that training and education products and pathways remain up-to-date and flexible.
One of the report’s key recommendations is to address bias in career selection, as young people are increasingly being pushed towards entering university at the expense of considering Vocational Education & Training (VET) courses. The report notes that the VET system is poorly understood, and many young people feel they are not provided with a deep understanding of post-school options. The report calls for government policy and decision makers to acknowledge that the two parts of the tertiary education system are treated differently and, therefore, valued differently by the Australian people.
The report also calls for the industry to improve gender diversity, with women presenting a ‘massive opportunity’ to increase the pool of potential workers. The report notes that 2,220 women commenced a trade apprenticeship in 2022 – the highest number on record and nearly four times the 20-year average to 2021 of 599.
The report calls for improved recognition of comparable international qualifications and experience, particularly in trades. It notes that trades recognition assessment processes are marred by lengthy delays and calls for the recognition of comparable or exceeding Australian requirements to eliminate the need for trade recognition assessments.
Other recommendations include developing and funding the implementation of a rolling apprentice retention strategy, creating a digital apprenticeship platform to improve training contact, and forming a national mentoring program.
The report concludes that understanding emerging and future workforce skills needs is critical to ensuring the pathways into and within the industry are flexible to the changing and diverse needs of workers, businesses, and employers. It stresses the need to ensure training and education products and pathways are not only suitable for the jobs of today but are forward-looking and flexible so the industry can develop the skills it will need for the future.