Tradespeople and professionals in construction are in huge demand as the industry gears up to deliver on HomeBuilder and manage a surge in activity on civil construction projects, the latest figures suggest.
Job Vacancy data published by the Department of Education, Skills and Employment shows that vacancy levels for many trades are now higher than they were before the outbreak of COVID.
Vacancy levels for electricians, for example, have risen for eight consecutive months and now stand at 1,958 – the highest level on record since October 2019.
Vacancies for plumbers, meanwhile, are at their highest levels since June 2018 whilst those for painting trade workers stand at three-year highs.
On the professional side, vacancies for architects, construction managers and various categories of engineer are almost back to pre-COVID levels.
The latest data comes despite other data which suggest that the seasonally adjusted number of people employed throughout the construction sector in Australia dropped from 1.181 million in November to still historically elevated levels of 1.154 million in February.]
Whilst current levels of construction employment are below those seen during the recent boom in multi-residential development, the sector has still added more than 100,000 people to its payroll over the past five years.
The data comes amid a boom in detached home building along with resurgent activity levels in civil construction.
On the former issue, a rush to capitalise on the Commonwealth Homebuilder program has seen the approval of almost 40,000 new detached homes over the three months to February – a rate of more than 13,000 homes each month (seasonally adjusted).
This compares with monthly approvals of typically between 7,500 and 10,000 detached homes over the past fifteen years.
For builders, this has resulted in challenges in securing tradespeople such as concreters, bricklayers, carpenters and others.
Meanwhile activity continues to ramp up on civil construction thanks to a strong pipeline of road and rail projects.
Simon Bristow, Regional Director of Hays Construction, says hiring activity has ‘definitely recovered’ to pre-pandemic levels and that skilled tradespeople and professionals are in high demand.
He says three factors are driving this.
First, the halt in international migration means that fewer workers from overseas are arriving on our shores.
This is putting pressure on the existing workforce.
Simultaneously, demand for workers in residential construction and on infrastructure projects is on the rise.
Finally, many builders are playing catch up after long lockdowns. These builders still have the same pre-pandemic contract dates that need to be adhered to and need workers to ensure those deadlines are met.
“So, overall, it’s a very active jobs market right now with strong opportunities available for those with the right skills, experience and attitude,” Bristow said.
According to Bristow, the biggest shortages are being seen across the trades.
He says there is a shortage of skilled tradespeople across the board.
This is particularly the case with boilermakers, carpenters and plumbers.
Shortages are less intense at the professional level, although there is still ‘noticeable demand’ for professionals across several areas.
This includes civil & structural engineers, REVIT and BIM designers and modellers, ArchiCAD and AutoCAD technicians and architects, estimators, contract administrators, project managers and site managers.
Asked how employers can attract workers, Bristow says it is important to understand what skilled workers are looking for.
In trades, he says employers who offer genuine training and upskilling opportunities along a pipeline of work will stand out.
At the professional level, candidates typically look for career advancement, flexibility, and work-life balance.
Employers could also look to the travel bubble with New Zealand and to further countries as more borders reopen, Bristow says.