Tradespeople and professionals are in strong demand within the construction sector across Australia as a massive volume of residential projects remains to be worked through and a good number of infrastructure developments underpins continued strong levels of activity in civil construction.

In its latest report, recruitment outfit Hays said employment conditions within the construction market remain buoyant across a number of states, with New South Wales and the Australian Capital Territory leading the way.

In NSW, Hays says demand is strong for experienced workers across all project types, with companies even willing to hire candidates without projects to start them on, growth in counter offers and employers being willing to hire on a permanent or temporary basis.

In the ACT, meanwhile, the civil market is busier following delays associated with an abnormally wet winter with land being released and road projects getting underway.

Down south, demand in Victoria is strong in across all sectors amid a robust albeit likely weakening residential market, a good number of commercial projects and good opportunities within the civil sector amid projects like the $1.6 billion sky rail project which is now underway.

In other states, Hays says the commencement of a number of projects in the commercial and infrastructure market will drive some opportunities forward in South Australia whilst opportunities are also emerging in road and rail projects within Western Australia.

In terms of professional roles, according to Hays:

  • Contract administrators are in short supply across every state to work on large-scale inner city projects in Victoria, commercial work in Queensland and especially in the building market in New South Wales.
  • A similar story exists for site managers who possess residential and commercial experience and, in the case of Queensland, defence industry experience. Civil supervisors and civil forepersons are also needed in places such as the Australian Capital Territory.
  • Estimators are needed for project homes in both Queensland and New South Wales and across several markets in South Australia.
  • Project Managers are needed for defence related developments in the Northern Territory, residential and commercial projects in New South Wales and aged care and healthcare developments in Victoria.

Meanwhile, in terms of trades:

  • Qualified carpenters are in demand across most markets, with a shortage of skilled people in this area.
  • Civil labourers are needed to fill an increasing number of projects in Queensland, for short term roles in the Northern Territory and in response to a catch-up after a wet winter in the Australian Capital Territory.
  • Other areas of demand include excavator operators in NSW to work on large infrastructure projects in Sydney; bricklayers, blocklayers and shopfitters in Queensland; pipelayers and excavators to work on subdivisions and new roads in South Australia; roofers in response to strong activity in New South Wales and plumbers for temporary assignments in the Northern Territory.

An interesting phenomenon at the moment in the Northern Territory revolves around a shortage of refrigeration technicians in Darwin, which is being driven not only by candidate loyalty to existing employers but also a refusal to consider candidates who have previously worked on the Ichthys gas project as a result of their high expectations regarding hourly rates.

The latest report follows ABS data released last month which showed that the number of people employed throughout the construction sector in Australia as at November last year stood at 1.062 million (seasonally adjusted) – up by 14,000 from a year earlier and by almost 70,000 compared with levels seen three years ago.

Demand for workers within the sector is largely being driven by a combination of the boom in residential construction activity as well as high levels of activity in civil construction.

Going forward, however, employment is expected to ease in coming years as the boom in residential activity subsides.