As building and civil activity remains strong, tradespeople throughout Australia are cashing in on a near-record boom in construction employment, the latest reports suggest.

In its July-December Hays Jobs Report released on July 10, recruitment firm Hays said hotspots of demand were emerging across the trades and labour market as massive infrastructure projects drive demand for workers with the right skills.

As outlined below, these include carpenters, concreters, advanced riggers and dogmen and many others.

A SEEK report issued on the same day, meanwhile, indicated that tradespeople and labourers across several areas are securing above average pay rises.

At the head of these are air-conditioning and refrigeration mechanics, whose average advertised salary across roles posted on Seek has jumped by eight percent over the past year to go from $77,630 in May 2018 to $83,278 in May this year.

Not far behind were fitters, turners and machinists (7 percent); welders & boilermakers (7 percent); electricians (6 percent) and landscapers and gardeners (6 percent).

Security personnel, labourers, plumbers, painters and building tradespeople also all pulled in handy average rises of either four or five percent (see chart).

Average salary growth rates across all of the above occupations exceeded the 3.4 percent overall average growth rate in salaries for all positions advertised on SEEK across all occupations over the timeframe in question.

Data provided by Seek

The latest reports come amid an ongoing boom in construction employment as the industry works through a massive pipeline of residential jobs (albeit with new dwelling approvals now in decline) and record levels of investment in road and rail projects.

On a seasonally adjusted basis, data from the Australia Bureau of Statistics indicates that the number of people employed either full-time or part time throughout the sector increased by 30,800 to go from 1.147 million in February to 1.179 million in May – the second highest level on record.

Vacancy data, however, does suggest that there has been some slowing from the heights of recent years.

Between May 2018 and May this year, data from the Department of Employment, Skills and Small and Family Business suggests that the number of vacancies for carpenters has declined from 1,073 to 728.

Over that period, vacancies for plumbers and painting trades workers have declined from 909 to 771 and from 376 to 308 respectively.

In its report, Hays says a strong pipeline of work is creating opportunities for new entrants to progress their career.

Since employers remain hesitant of those without proven outcomes, however, candidates should be prepared to work their way up from entry level.

In doing this, Hays advises candidates to keep their resume up-to-date with their most recent job along with their day to day tasks.

Where possible, CVs should include project specific experience.

As well as the companies they have worked for and the projects on which they have worked, Hays advises candidates to list specific tasks which they have performed.

Formwork carpenters, for example, should list whether they were forming stairs, shafts, lifts etc; labourers should list what they were doing on site rather than simply writing ‘labouring’.

For civil roles, Hays advises candidates to list machines they have operated and the projects on which they have operated these.

For all roles, candidates should list their relevant certifications (RIW, Pegasus, MSIC etc.).

Skills in Demand

According to Hays, skills in demand are as set out below.

Demand exists for skilled Carpenters, who are in short supply but are needed for a range of projects.

Formwork Carpenters are also sought to work on commercial and civil projects. There is also a general shortage of these candidates.

Concreters are in short supply in response to the number of large commercial, residential and infrastructure projects underway. Candidates with a vehicle and the ability to screed or helicopter are in particularly high demand.

Advanced Riggers and Dogmen are sought in response to the increase in concrete tilt panel and structural steel erection work on high-rise construction projects.

With multiple projects underway, Steel Fixers and Post Tensioners are in increasing demand.

Glaziers are also needed to work on multiple projects.

Electricians with maintenance experience are required and with a number of solar projects approved, the need for Solar Electricians will increase this half.

An increase in solar farm construction in South Australia has seen a number of Electricians move from metropolitan commercial construction projects to work on these solar farms. Electricians are therefore in short supply for metropolitan projects as well as to work on wind farms. Demand will continue given the number of regional projects.

General maintenance trades are in high demand in South Australia too, where a facility contract change and increase in student accommodation is creating demand for skilled trades with DCSI clearances.

Landscapers are needed to work on childcare facilities.

Refrigeration Technicians are sought too. Those with installation experience are in particularly short supply.

Bricklayers/Blocklayers are in demand. A lack of apprentices completing this trade has created today’s skill shortage.

Plumbers with maintenance and new build experience are in high demand. Tickets such as TMV and backflow are always needed.

Civil Operators are in growing demand, particularly in Queensland and Western Australia where many civil projects are underway and large pipeline resource infrastructure is coming online. Experienced, multi-ticketed operators are in short supply. Operators with experience working with various GPS software are highly sought after.

Pipelayers with experience working on subdivisions are required.

Highly skilled Excavator Operators are also sought. It is not enough to hold the relevant ticket as employers look for experience too. However, there is a shortage of suitable candidates. Exposure to multiple GPS systems is desirable.

Heavy Diesel Mechanics are needed, but generally prefer FIFO roles that offer higher rates. This leaves a shortage of candidates for roles outside mining. There is a massive shortfall of these candidates in South East Queensland largely due to the increase in civil projects. These projects require large numbers of plant and equipment, all of which requires regular maintenance.

Boilermakers are in high demand for both site and workshop-based roles.

Mechanical Fitters are in continuous demand since machinery requires maintenance all year round.

A range of final trim tradespeople are needed too, including experienced final trim Excavator Operators with deep sewer experience for subdivision projects, final trim Grader Operators with GPS experience due to several large road contracts being awarded, final trim Bobcat Operators with experience final trimming car parks and subdivisions, experienced final trim Loader Operators for subdivisions in sand and wet ground and final trim Civil Operators for infrastructure projects.

Drainers who work well in a team are needed on subdivision projects.

Skilled labourers with multiple high risk tickets are in consistent demand for short-term assignments.

Cabinet Makers, Joiners and Shopfitters are another area of demand as large projects reach fit-out stage and retail projects come online and require experienced candidates. The refitting of existing office spaces is adding to demand as older office buildings are refurbished to keep up with the influx of recently built towers.

Asbestos Workers and Demolition ticketed trades are in short supply. Candidates require specific tickets and a recent medical.

Tradespeople with exposure to the defence industry are another area of demand. The Federal Government has invested in defence in Queensland and blue collar staff who have worked in this space previously are highly sought after. Candidates with certain levels of defence security clearance are in most demand.

Field Service Technicians (cranes, trucks, plant and machinery) are also sought.