We all have lamented the fact that a diminishing number of our youth are taking on apprenticeships and traineeships. Making matters worse, a falling number of those actually complete their apprenticeships.

These ought to be very worrying issues for the long term sustainability of the building and construction industry.

In recent times, there has been a greater concentration by the Federal and State Governments on policy development and the process for the delivery of training, including what will be delivered, how it will be delivered, who will deliver it, and how delivery will be regulated.

Discussions about the structure and regulation of vocational education and training are extremely important, but something more is needed to give the industry the confidence to employ into the future, and for potential employees (including apprentices and trainees) to have a better understanding about what vocations will result in long-term stable employment.

There is a real risk here; unless the ranks of mature age employees in the industry are comprehensively bolstered by new talent, we are headed for unnecessary higher costs and greater difficulty in locating properly skilled workers.

A significant component of the problems facing the industry, in terms of increasing and upskilling the workforce, arises from the fact that we have, over time, gradually convinced young people and their parents that being a tradie or working in the construction industry is a second class job.

By way of example, how often do we see vocational training providers at school careers nights? How often do we hear about schools inviting successful construction trade contractors back to speech nights to talk about how they made a significant success of their chosen trade career? How often do we see schools promoting the fact that a number of their students were accepted into trade courses rather than university?

Industry needs to re-engage with school careers advisers, our youth and their parents if the industry is to bolster its workforce and skills base for the longer term.

Do parents and careers advisers have available to them all of the necessary information to understand the nature of a trade or other position in today’s technologically advanced industry, and how portable qualifications and skills are in a global construction industry?

Industry needs to be prepared to engage more effectively with its potential pool of workers, and look at international developments in construction techniques and new products if we are to be able to compete in a global marketplace.

The opportunities are there, industry just needs to adjust its mindset and move away from its historical approach to employment models.