Project managers, site engineers, contract administrators and other construction professionals are raking in big bucks amid a surge in construction jobs which saw more than 30,000 positions added (seasonally adjusted) over the past quarter.

On a seasonally adjusted basis, data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics shows that the number of people who are employed either full-time or part-time within Australia’s construction sector increased by 30,800 to go from 1.147 million in February to 1.179 million in May.

This is the second highest level of record and represents an increase of 6,700 jobs compared with the same period last year, 55,900 compared with the same period two years about and almost 100,000 over the past three years.

Leading the way is the construction services, which account for 753,200 jobs and where 16,500 jobs have been added over the past year and almost 67,300 jobs have been added over the past three years.

Employment levels are also elevated in heavy industry and civil construction as well as in building construction.

With an estimated headcount of 114,600, the number of people employed in heavy industry and civil construction has contracted by 6,500 over the past year but is up 30,500 over the past two years.

Likewise, employment in building construction (314,700) has contracted by 4,700 workers over the past twelve months but is up 30,300 over the past two years and has increased by 88,100 over the past five years.

In terms of locations, the boom is being led by New South Wales, South Australia and Victoria.

Over the past twelve months, New South Wales has added 9,400 workers to take its construction headcount to 371,300 – up by 66,700 over the past four years.

South Australia added 8,800 workers over the year to take its number of people employed in construction to a record 78,100.

Employment numbers in Victoria are not far off record highs and have increased by 34,700 over the past two years.

The latest data comes amid other reports which show that salaries are rising and that professionals across a range of areas are in short supply.

In its bi-annual report on salaries released on July 10, job search web site SEEK said that both the construction sector and the engineering sector feature in the five strongest sectors in terms of growth in average advertised salaries over the twelve months to May (other top five sectors were Mining, Resources & Energy; Consulting & Strategy; and Information & Communication Technology).

According to Seek, average salaries of estimators advertised on its web site surged by seven percent between May 2018 and May 2019.

Those of plant and machinery operators; planning and scheduling professionals; health, safety and environment professionals; surveyors; project managers and contract managers increased by five percent, four percent, four percent, three percent, three percent and three percent respectively.

On the same day, a Jobs Report released by recruitment firm Hays showed that a significant number of construction professionals are in short supply.

This includes project managers, site engineers, contract administrators, design managers and site managers in civil engineering (see below).

Around Australia, the boom in construction sector jobs is being driven by historically elevated levels of work amid near-record levels of activity in home building and multi-residential construction as well as a record level of investment in road and rail infrastructure projects.

Going forward, employment prospects in civil infrastructure are likely to strengthen further over coming years as a massive pipeline of new work moves into peak conditions.

In housing, meanwhile, conditions on the ground remain busy for now notwithstanding that the pace at which new work is coming in has slowed.

All up, 216,551 dwellings were under construction as of March 31, the most recent date for which data is available.

That is down from a peak of 231,416 in March 2018 but remains well above any level seen prior to the current housing boom.

In its report, Hays said it expects vacancy activity and demand for professionals to remain strong during the second half of 2019.

It points to a finding in its recent Hays Salary Guide which it conducted in which 47 percent of construction employers say they intend to increase their staffing levels during 2019/20.

“This vacancy activity will be focused in Australia’s booming civil infrastructure market thanks to a growing population and large-scale, long-term publicly funded infrastructure projects,” Hays said.

“While residential construction has declined, and the industry is shifting from high-rise residential to infrastructure and commercial, an ongoing skill shortage, population growth and low unemployment will ensure we still see some home building activity and therefore jobs.

“For the second half of 2019, construction vacancy activity will therefore remain positive, although the hotspots of skills in demand do vary by location.”

Hotspots of Demand:

According to Hays, hotspots of demand are as follows:

New South Wales

Skilled Supervisors, Project Engineers and Estimators with experience in tunnelling, roads and rail projects will remain in demand in Sydney. There is a general shortage of candidates with the required tenure to satisfy demand.

Sales Estimators who can price or write tenders for project homes are required.

A shortage of Production Estimators who can accurately estimate the required materials and labour is also evident.

Contract Administrators, Project Engineers and Site Managers with experience in large health, institutional and commercial projects are sought.

Contract Administrators with fit-out experience are needed too as existing office space across Sydney is refurbished.

Structures Forepersons are also sought. With no slowdown in large tier two projects in sight, such candidates are in short supply.

Pre-Construction Officers are in short supply too since few administrators possess the necessary technical DA/CDC knowledge and understand council requirements.

The Newcastle and Hunter Valley region continues to see increased demand for Contract Administrators with experience in both residential and commercial building due to the volume of developments across the region.

Estimators are needed too for both residential and high-value commercial projects.

Candidates with high-rise residential experience are also sought given the volume of high-rise residential developments underway in Newcastle and Gosford.

Project Managers with commercial building experience on projects between $20m and $50m are in high demand too due to an increase in these projects across Newcastle and the Hunter.

Victoria

Victoria’s construction market remains active. Infrastructure is driving vacancy activity with projects such as the Melbourne Metro Rail requiring staff, while the commercial construction sector has picked up.

As a result, construction professionals at all levels are in demand, from high-level Design Engineers to experienced Delivery Engineers on roads, tunnels, bridges and rail.

Construction Engineers with rail and road experience are also required given current project activity.

Experienced Contract Administrators, Design Managers and Site Managers in civil infrastructure and the commercial market are also sought.

The construction building industry is very healthy, particularly in education and health. All construction skills are in demand, from Site Forepersons to Project Engineers and Project Managers.

Queensland

Queensland’s construction jobs market will be active this financial year. Our jobs report covers civil construction, rail, the commercial sector & residential. Read on for more insight into the market trends.

Looking firstly at civil construction, candidates with Transport and Main Roads (TMR) experience are in growing demand in Queensland as companies act to fulfil their tender requirements. In particular demand are Project Managers with 10 years of experience, Site Engineers with at least two years of experience and Project Engineers with at least five years of experience on TMR projects. Add federally funded major projects across the region, such as the Bruce Highway update (CR2SM) and the Logan Enhancement Project, and demand for these candidates remains high this half.

Rail is another active area. South East Queensland has lost some civil professionals to Sydney’s Metro project, but with three Queensland-based rail projects planned (Inland Rail, Cross River Rail and Brisbane Metro) the supply of experienced candidates fails to meet demand.

South East Queensland’s solid project pipeline is fuelling high demand for Contract Administrators too.

In the commercial market, Site Managers with experience working on $20m+ projects and Project Managers and Directors who have worked on $100m+ projects are in short supply.

Commercial Estimators are also sought. With a growing number of high value projects underway or soon to commence, such as Queens Wharf Brisbane, the Gabba stadium upgrade, Brisbane Live entertainment precinct, the Redevelopment of Brisbane’s Cultural Precinct and multiple train station upgrades, demand will remain high.

Turning to the residential market, insurance builders continue to look for strong Site Supervisors and Estimators.

Residential architectural and small lot Supervisors will be another area of demand as Brisbane’s CBD and inner suburbs continue to grow. With a shortage of land, knock down and rebuild projects are popular. Adding to demand is the active Sunshine Coast market, which has peaked with major land developments underway.

As always, experienced Estimators with at least seven years of experience and a trade background are highly sought after across all types of construction in South East Queensland.

From a trade perspective, Carpenters remain in demand, particularly those with high end fitout experience.

HVAC Technicians are needed, but there is a pay gap between local and interstate rates. With candidates able to earn higher rates in NSW and Victoria, there is a shortage of candidates for Queensland roles.

South Australia

Adelaide’s civil construction market will remain strong this half and into 2020, with several large-scale projects creating demand for Project Managers, Site Managers and Civil Estimators.

Civil Contract Administrators are needed too, but there is a shortage of available and strong candidates who want to remain in the role long-term.

Several government funded infrastructure projects are or will soon enter the delivery phase, which will impact the market.

Meanwhile, commercial construction has improved in South Australia with high confidence fuelling demand for Project Managers, Contract Administrators and Estimators with proven commercial experience. Adding to demand is the high number of Commercial Estimators who relocated interstate several years ago and have not returned.

In residential construction, demand exists for Site Supervisors and Project Managers with medium density experience. Residential Estimators are also required.

Western Australia

In Western Australia, construction (and engineering) skill shortages will continue to intensify in response to the Metronet and major mining projects.

Within civil construction, demand is high for candidates with a rail background who can work on the Metronet project.

Project Engineers with solid experience are highly sought after but are being retained by tier 1 and 2 employers.

Civil construction Project Managers and Supervisors are also required, with the supply of strong candidates failing to meet demand.

Contract Administrators and Estimators within electrical, mechanical services and commercial construction will remain in demand. Civil Engineers at the intermediate level are in short supply too.

Perth’s active commercial sector will create demand for Project and Construction Managers.

Demand has also started to rise for Mechanical Engineers and Site Managers with commercial construction backgrounds to work on hotel, apartment, large-scale shopping centres and mixed-use building projects.

There is also demand for candidates with correctional and aged care project experience.

Tasmania

In Tasmania, strong economic growth coupled with heightened investment in infrastructure, renewables and accommodation developments ensures ongoing high demand, particularly for Project Managers and Contract Administrators.

Northern Territory

Darwin’s construction market is experiencing a downturn with several key projects coming to an end.

As we saw last half, the Northern Territory will continue to face a general shortage of skilled construction candidates for local and remote roles, including Project Managers and Site Managers for defence lead roles.

Australian Capital Territory

Within Canberra, continuing staffing shortages are evident.

In greatest demand are Project Managers with large-scale commercial experience and Site Managers, Project Engineers and Contract Administrators for health, education and infrastructure projects.