Drastic shortfall of building apprentices

Construction apprentices are in critically short supply, Cotton Ward writes.
A looming shortage of 40,000 building tradespeople means a bright future for current apprentices.
Master Builders’ Association executive director Brian Seidler says that in the construction industry "all areas are in high demand".
"During the next seven years we’ll have 80,000 tradespeople retiring. We only have 40,000 building apprentices. That’s a shortfall of 40,000.”
New home construction is down but Seidler says that "when NSW picks up in a few years, it will be a delight for builders – they’ll be able to charge whatever they like".
The shortage of apprentices is caused by two main issues affecting small and medium businesses: workers’ compensation and occupational health and safety laws.
"These smaller businesses would rather hire [skilled] people than train them," he says. "We’re lobbying [the NSW Government[ to change the laws to be less onerous on employers, so they can get an exemption for apprentices."
Trades identified by the Department of Education, Science and Training’s National Skills Needs List as being in short supply include bricklayers, carpenters and joiners, electricians, fibrous plasterers, painters and decorators, plumbers, roof slaters and tilers, stonemasons, and wall and floor tilers.
Builders do a four-year apprenticeship, which includes spending one day a week studying at TAFE. The final year usually involves working full-time. But finding an employer can be difficult.
"We have 450 people seeking apprenticeships through the Master Builders’ Association’s group apprenticeship training scheme every year," Seidler says. "About 250 of them are suitable, but we can only place 70. Employers need more incentives to take on young people."
With the MBA Apprenticeship Scheme, apprentices are in a full-time employment-based training program and are outsourced to builders and subcontractors in different environments. They gain a nationally recognised qualification that has been developed by industry. Its apprenticeships are open to anyone aged 16 or older. It’s preferable to have completed year 12, vocational studies at school or have work experience in the industry, and to be competent in maths and English at year 10 level. Applicants should be fit and agile, able to work at heights, have an aptitude for working with their hands, enjoy working as a team and be willing to travel to different sites.
To apply for an apprenticeship, send a resume to the recruitment officer at apprenticeship@mbansw.asn.au

David Battye, 22, is in the second year of his carpenter and joiner apprenticeship and was the Apprentice of the Year for carpentry last year.
"I always liked to build things after school. I could have gone to university but a family friend is a tradesman and he said it was a good living," Battye says.
He works for Southern Cross Constructions and keeps afloat financially by working a total of about 50 hours a week, including overtime.
"The first year can be tough and it can be difficult to stay motivated but you have to keep at it," Battye says.
"I’m lucky because the company I’m with has overtime and I can earn an acceptable amount. Some smaller builders don’t do overtime."
He spends one day a week at TAFE studying theory in the morning and doing practical workshops in the afternoon. When he has finished his apprenticeship, he plans to do two years of study to gain a builder’s licence.
"I want to go through and get all the certificates and work in building management," Battye says. "Over the long-term, you go further if you study."

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