An article on the website http://designbuildsource.com.au highlighted concerns about a future skills shortage in the construction sector if apprentice numbers continue to decline as they have been doing since 2010.
Although there has been a downturn in the building and construction activity throughout Australia, the industry’s activity is expected to pick up especially towards the middle of the decade and skills shortages are likely if apprentice numbers continue to decline.
There is a fear that a generation of young people will fall victim to economic circumstances and government policies that make getting a job harder especially for apprentice workers who are devoid of experience and skills.
According to the article’s author, despite weak economic conditions outside the resource sector overall, declines in apprentice numbers in the construction sector has not been replicated in other areas of the economy.
According to final full year statistics from the National Centre for Vocational Education Research, just 16,585 new apprentices signed up on construction sites which was a drop of 12 per cent since 2011 and almost one third less than in 2010.
Read what the article went on to discuss:
Over that same period, the total number of apprentices in training throughout the industry has dropped from 55,383 to 46,323.
The latest data comes amid increasing reports of soft demand for tradespeople throughout Australia amid weak building conditions.
In the residential sector, for instance, the most recent HIA Trades Report revealed that 10 out of 13 trades are in oversupply, with site preparation, plumbing and electrical being the worst hit areas.
A further Master Builders Australia survey revealed an extreme oversupply of scaffolders, building consultants, labourers, painters, roof tilers and electricians.
The data also reinforces fears of a looming shortage of skilled labour toward the middle of the decade as building activity picks up.
Master Builders Australia chief executive officer Willhelm Harnisch says the decline in apprenticeship rates highlights the need for urgent action to bolster the economy, cut red tape, boost apprenticeship support, reform industrial relations and restore incentives to take on apprentices.
He says unless apprenticeship intake rates improve, the aforementioned potential labour shortfall could precipitate further construction delays and upward pressure on building costs.
“The Government’s Kickstart apprenticeship bonus and other initiatives are welcome, but have been unable to cushion the new apprentice intake from poor trading conditions,” he says.
Encouraging young people to enter the construction sector would be made easier if they weren’t inundated by media reports about how bad the safety record is in the construction sector. This year alone we have had a number of apprentice related accidents on construction sites and serious injuries and fatalities were the result.
In order to maintain safety among young and apprentice workers it is vital to ensure they are appropriately trained. That involves ensuring they are in possession of a white card before allowing them onto a construction site and then training them on site specific safety (such as emergency response procedures etc.). Another crucial aspect of apprentice safety is ensuring that they are adequately supervised, especially while engaging in high risk work. Certain trades require a special high risk licence and apprentices engaged in these activities must also obtain this certificate.