Construction Industry Defies Unemployment Drop

Tuesday, October 20th, 2015
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The Australian Bureau of Statistics Jobs data showed a loss of 5,000 jobs in the Australian economy in September yet despite this the unemployment rate remained steady at 6.2 per cent thanks to a reduction in the official participation rate.

Whilst these numbers are disappointing after four months of positive jobs growth, the construction sector remains one of the bright lights of the Australian job market.

Former ABS Head Bill McLennan has stated that the current jobs data is “not worth the paper it is written on” due to perceived flaws in the process, and evidence at a grassroots level through job ad data and demand for construction roles in Randstad branches across the country show that the construction sector is set to be a key driver of jobs in the economy for some time to come.

The construction sector is the third largest employment sector in Australia, employing over 1 million people. For the five years to February 2015, employment across the construction sector grew by 76,000 and this is expected to almost double over the next four years with 137,000-plus further new jobs expected to be added by 2019.

In an area that is already seeing skills shortages starting to emerge across trades as well as managerial roles, this raises the question of where the workers will come from with this doubling in demand. And whilst the construction industry has traditionally been one of the largest employers of trainees and apprentices, more will need to be done to develop the next level of workers with the latest research showing a decline of 16 per cent in the number of apprentices compared to 2014, as well as a 20 per cent decline in completions.

Randstad offices continue to see demand for experienced workers to cope with current demand but little appetite to invest in the workforce of the future. This is undoubtedly a short-sighted approach, but the good news is that with youth unemployment levels more than double the national average across the country and the school year coming to a close, there is a vast pool of motivated talent out there eager to get their first job. Employers, too, are willing to step out of their normal recruitment activity and connect directly with schools and Tafes in their areas.

This week, I was fortunate enough to spend three days with 18 high school students from Sydney’s outer west who will all enter the job market in the next six weeks. These students were attending a Randstad Shaping Young Futures Work Inspirations Program, which provides young people with opportunities to experience the world of work first-hand in a meaningful and inspiring way. The program provides the students with three career engagement activities or ‘insights’ that allow them to explore career journeys, connect with business and meet and talk to staff.

During my conversations with these young people, many of them expressed an interest in careers in trades and yet they had very little idea how to find a job in this area. This really highlighted to me the need for all of us as employers to take an active role in going and finding the young workers of the future, as they have little awareness of the recruitment channels we take for granted. By doing this, we can ensure that the construction sector has the workers it needs for the future without having to rely on Australia’s skilled migration programs.

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