As the sector’s workforce reaches its highest ever levels, demand for tradespeople and key staff throughout the construction sector in Australia is booming.

In its latest report, recruitment outfit Hays says the job market in Sydney has ‘never been so candidate short’ whilst markets in Queensland, the ACT and the Gold Coast were also strong.

This comes on the back of data released last month from the Australian Bureau of Statistics which indicated that the seasonally adjusted number of people employed throughout the construction sector in Australia grew by 18,300 in the February quarter to reach record highs of 1.065 million – around 35,600 more than the same period one year earlier and up by more than 60,000 over the past two years.

In terms of professional roles, project managers, site managers, contract managers, contract administrators and forepersons are in top demand whilst licensed electricians are in massive demand on the tradesperson side and general/civil laborers, carpenters, plumbers and sheet metal workers are also sought after.

Whilst the civil sector is slowing, the need for workers is being driven by extremely high levels of activity in residential building – the dollar value of which has risen by around one third since the end of 2011.

Moreover, with Housing Industry Association forecasting that the nation broke ground on a record 220,060 new houses and apartments in 2015 and will do so on almost 200,000 again this year, demand shows little sign of abating in the near term.


In terms of states, desperate employers in Sydney are resorting to tactics such as taking on candidates without local experience, sponsoring candidates from overseas and even occasionally offering sign-on bonuses as work starts of the tallest building associated with the massive Barangaroo project and work continues on commercial projects such as Darling Harbour Live, Green Square and Parramatta Square as well as key infrastructure projects such as WestConnex, NorthConnex and the North West Rail Link.

In terms of professionals, demand for site managers and forepersons across all aspects of construction is red hot as is that for project managers with fit-out experience and site administrators to support contract administrators who are overloaded with work.

From a trade perspective, demand is strong for carpenters, plumbing workers, sheet metal workers and electricians.

“We reported last quarter that the recruitment market in Sydney has never been so candidate short,” Hays said in its report. “This remains the case, and has created a major challenge for construction contractors that have won projects but are now struggling to find the right people to help them do the work. In response, companies are now considering measures they would not have previously.”

In addition to salary, Hays says employers are using a number of methods in an effort to retain workers, including promotion and a strong sense of connectedness to the brand.

Outside of Sydney, Hays said candidate shortages which emerged late last year in Brisbane remain evident amid continued strength in residential and commercial markets and are likely to intensify later this year as a number of shopping centre refurbishments get going.

Such shortages are being further exasperated as a resurgence in the Gold Coast market means Gold Coast locals who previously travelled to Brisbane are finding opportunities locally.

In Canberra, as well, a good pipeline of high-rise residential and mixed-use residential is driving demand for project managers with high-rise experience as well as contract administrators to support these rules.

Elsewhere, Hays says, the supply of quality candidates in Perth is restricted notwithstanding subdued conditions in that market as workers opt to remain in current roles whilst temporary roles remain the focus of hiring in Adelaide notwithstanding some opportunities in the aged care sector there.

Whilst Melbourne, Hobart and Darwin are not covered in the report, it is likely that shortages of skilled labour in several of the aforementioned areas are evident in Victoria and perhaps Tasmania but modest in the NT amid strong building conditions in the former markets but an easing off in conditions in the latter as work winds up on the Ichthys project.

According to ABS figures, Victoria’s construction sector has added a whopping 36,100 workers to its headcount over the past year whilst Tasmania has added 2,500.

In terms of candidate trends, employers are basing hiring decisions around project history (e.g. multi-storey, retail or health experience) and are increasingly willing to fast track promotions in order to retain staff. Leading hands, for example, are increasingly able to develop their roles into that of forepersons, who in turn are increasingly able to evolve their own role into that of a site manager.

Candidates, meanwhile, continue to update their details on LinkedIn and job boards as well as with recruiters in order to ensure they receive notice of the best opportunities.