Australia’s housing construction sector is set to receive a boost as the Commonwealth pumps more than $90 million into growing the sector’s workforce.

In a pre-budget announcement, the Commonwealth Government has said that it will invest $90.6 million to boost the number of skilled workers in the housing construction industry.

A key part of the spending involves an investment of $88.8 million to fund 20,000 additional Fee-Free TAFE training places for housing construction trades.

This includes:

  • $62.4 million to work with states and territories to deliver an additional 15,000 fee-free TAFE and VET places over two years from 1 January 2025; and
  • $26.4 million to work with states and territories to deliver approximately 5,000 places in pre-apprenticeship programs over two years from 1 January 2025.

Meanwhile, an additional $1.8 million will help to:

  • streamline skills assessments for around 1,900 potential migrants from countries with comparable qualifications who want to work in Australia’s construction and housing sector; and
  • prioritise the processing of around 2,600 Trades Recognition Australia skills assessments in targeted occupations.

The latest announcement comes amid growing concern that a shortage of skilled workers could jeopardise Australia’s goal of delivering 1.2 million new homes over five years from 1 July 2024.

Last year, the nation broke ground on only 168,736 homes. This represented the lowest level of housing starts in more than a decade and was more than 70,000 homes short of the 240,000 annual average that need to be delivered in order to meet the five-year target.

Despite this, the most recent HIA Trades Report showed that a shortage exists across all major housing construction trades.

The announcement also comes amid a review of the Australian Apprenticeship Incentive Scheme, which provides financial support to employers, trainees and apprentices who work in priority areas.

Currently, the scheme – which was set up by the previous Coalition Government to boost apprenticeship rates following COVID – is set to revert to a more limited form of support from 1 July 2024.

However, employer groups are encouraging the Government to maintain the current level of apprenticeship support.

Building industry lobby groups have welcomed the latest announcement.

In a statement, Master Builders Australia chief executive officer Denita Wawn said that the Government had taken meaningful steps to develop a building and construction workforce that could deliver on Commonwealth housing targets.

“Master Builders has long advocated that we must do more to boost our domestic capacity and make it easier for migrants to work in the industry,” Wawn said.

“We have worked closely with the government to make these policies a reality and thank Minister O’Connor and Minister Collins for responding to our concerns.”


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