More tradies to be trained as housing targets loom

Thousands more Australians could be lured to the construction sector as the government attempts to boost a struggling workforce and hit housing targets.

An extra 20,000 training places will be funded under a $90 million package in the federal budget, to train the bricklayers, plumbers and other tradies who will build the homes for Australia’s growing populace.

This includes 15,000 fee-free TAFE and VET places, which will be made available over two years from January 1, and an additional 5000 places in pre-apprenticeship programs.

About $1.8 million will also be spent to streamline and fast-track skills assessments for about 1900 potential migrants with qualifications in construction and housing, and the processing of evaluations for new arrivals in targeted occupations.

Skills Minister Brendan O’Connor said the package would support and strengthen Australia’s residential housing capability.

“This is a great opportunity for people to gain a trade whilst accessing government incentives and reduce cost of living pressures through more affordable housing,” he said.

The federal government aims to build 1.2 million more homes over five years as Australia’s population grows.

A recent report from the government-appointed National Housing Supply and Affordability Council found Australia will fall short of its housing target by hundreds of thousands of dwellings, citing skills shortages and builder insolvencies.

Housing Minister Julie Collins said everyone needed to direct their efforts to the government’s “ambitious” goal.

“Unless we have an ambitious target, unless we have every tier of government with a shoulder to the wheel, unless we have the sector with their shoulder to the wheel … We won’t (reach the targets),” she told Sky News on Wednesday.

“But for the first time in a long time, we’ve got all of those things.

“To build more homes we need more tradies, and that is what this announcement will deliver.”

More than 355,000 students have been supported by fee-free TAFE as of December.

The package showed the government was serious about addressing skills shortages, the union representing building workers said.

“There’s an often-overlooked distinction between apprenticeships and traineeships, but thankfully the government recognises the importance of both – that’s critical to addressing construction skills gaps,” CFMEU national secretary Zach Smith said.

Construction industry groups also welcomed the initiative.

“We have worked closely with the government to make these policies a reality,” Master Builders Australia chief executive Denita Wawn said.

“If we are going to have any chance of building enough homes we have to prioritise capacity building of the industry.”

Business Council of Australia chief executive Bran Black said the package would help with workforce shortages in the construction sector.

“Attracting more people to the sector with high quality and fee-free TAFE training will be critical for Australia’s future,” he said.

“Australia is currently facing a housing shortage which is impacting inflation and the economy, and on top of that our net zero transition will require a skills pipeline to underpin significant investments in areas such as infrastructure.”

Housing Industry Association managing director Jocelyn Martin has also called for the government to incentivise employers to hire apprentices.

“Without an employer, there is no apprentice,” she said.


Tess Ikonomou and Kat Wong
(Australian Associated Press)


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