Shortage Of Trade Skills Threatens Australian Economy

Go to university. Get a degree. Become a lawyer, doctor, or accountant. These are the things parents tell their children, the things that governments encourage. But what happens if the government is so focused on encouraging university education and degrees that it forgets about the people that form the backbone of any society: the plumbers, electricians, and builders? Referred to as tradespeople, these are jobs which may not be acquired through university degrees, but which require specific skills and experience that society cannot do without.

This is the issue currently facing Australia, where a shortage in trade skills is being felt in every region and every industry. The result of the focus on university education is that apprentices in trade schools feel the government is not offering them enough incentives and support, and they end up leaving the country to find work elsewhere. Busy At Work claims that, as a result, there will be a shortage of 240,000 trades people in the country by 2015 (jacdigital.com.au).

Trade Skill Shortage Felt throughout the Economy
Lack of manpower in these areas has a chain reaction throughout the Australian economy, as shown by the impact on its traditional lynchpin: the mining industry. Mining companies are struggling to recruit the necessary skills from Australian trade schools. The result is a vicious cycle, as companies become reluctant to invest in training young apprentices, and young people become reluctant to pursue trade professions.

The trade skills shortage is felt severely in the event of a crisis, as shown by the aftermath of the Queensland floods in January 2011. Attempts to repair the damage were hampered by the skills shortage, and not only in construction work. The expertise of electricians was needed to perform safety checks to determine where flood waters might come into contact with power supply infrastructure. The situation was so bad that interstate cooperation between Queensland and New South Wales was necessary to muster the required workforce. This prompted complaints from Queensland Master Electrician Malcolm Richards that the New South Wales contractors did not have the required skills (theaustralian.com.au).

The shortage of workers in the construction industry is also a point of concern, as Australia looks to undertake a number of projects to improve its public transport infrastructure, as well as its Information Technology infrastructure with the National Broadband Network. The Australian Construction Industry Forum (ACIF) has expressed concerns that the skills shortage will hit hardest when the mining boom ends and priority shifts to residential housing (designbuildsource.com.au).

Skills Needed
The situation has implications for those hoping to make a life for themselves in Australia, as they need to know which skills, whether or not they have a university education. It’s interesting to note that the situation has resulted in many tradespeople attaining higher salaries then university graduates (articlebase.com).

Trade skills are required in every industry and every region. Some examples listed on the skills shortages list include:

  • Fitters
  • Mechanics
  • Roof Plumbers
  • Bakers
  • Chefs

But “tradespeople” is a broad term that covers a number of different skillsets, so people from a wide variety of professions need to know the opportunity is open for them to ply their trades in Australia.

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Written by Matthew Flax on behalf of Skilled Migrant Jobs, a job portal that helps advertises jobs for skilled immigrants and which helps immigrants find prospective employers.