After The Boom: Future Jobs in the Trades

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Want to ensure your skills stay in demand post resource boom? Upskill, retrain and adapt with the fast-changing construction industry.

Jobs in the mining sector are shifting from construction into operations with a Government report finding workers will need to retrain to ensure they meet future demand.

As major oil and gas projects come online it is these new sectors opening up that are where the demand – and therefore money – will be.

It’s no secret that Australian tradies have been doing well in the last 10 years thanks to the mining boom. According to a 2014 Curtin University and Bankwest report, 18 per cent of high income households in resource-rich Western Australia are headed by someone employed in the trades – double the national average.

However, a December-2013 Resources sector skills needs report by the Australian Workforce and Productivity Agency (AWPA) found that tradies will need to retrain to ensure they meet future demand.

Forecasting in the report based on a low-growth scenario found Resources Project Construction is likely to peak at 83,324 workers in 2014 and then fall to 7,708 in 2018 – that’s over 75,000 jobs gone in a few years.

Skills development and retraining trade workers is necessary as the sector’s construction phase shifts into operations, according to AWPA Board member Keith Spence.

Future Demand for Trades“Those trade workers that are transitioning out of construction into operations that can have these supplementary skills can become extremely valuable and attractive employees in the future,” he said.

These findings are consistent with a May 2014 Construction Outlook survey report by the Australian Industry Group (AIG) in conjunction with the Australian Constructors Association (ACA).

However AIG Chief Executive, Innes Willox, said: “While this [mining]wind-down will weigh heavily on the construction sector, there are encouraging signs in the Outlook report that growth of transport and communication projects and a gradual pick-up in commercial construction will at least ease the decline in activity and help provide employment for many released from mining-related projects.”

ACA Executive Director, Lindsay Le Compte echoed the need to invest in training.

“Now is a good time for the industry to devote some effort to re-skilling its workforce to ensure it has adequate access to appropriately trained workers as the industry lifts in various sectors over coming years,” he said.

So in which areas should tradespeople upskill to ensure they meet future demand?

TTT spoke to Construction Skills Queensland (CSQ) CEO, Brett Schimming who said there are still many opportunities for workers in the industry although retraining and upskilling is required.

Speaking about the transition from construction to operation Schimming said there will still be a demand for skilled labour – although in smaller quantities.

“This will require many similar types of occupations that were required on the initial build such as electricians, specialist welders, civil workers, and drillers,” he said.

He added that the resource construction phase is not finished yet.

“Building what is already funded, and the new projects which do commence, will require a continual supply of skilled workers.”

“In the engineering construction sector, structural steel workers, plant operators and concreters are set to be in high demand.”

Schimmering also said forecasts suggesting an upward trend in residential construction over the next few years will create demand for general trades.

However he said the general slowdown as the economy shifts toward sectors not driven by resource investment meant the days of strong wage growth were probably over for now.

“A lessening in demand for labour suggests that this wages growth is unlikely to continue at the same pace.”

Schimming said other opportunities for forward-thinking tradies lay in adapting to building and technology processes.

“The way we build is changing — materials are changing, as are the methods of construction.”

“Not only are components increasingly produced off site, but entire houses are being prefabricated to support the booming needs of mining and energy project workforce housing,” Schimmering said, describing prefab as an emerging challenge for the construction industry.

“We need to ensure that workers in the industry and apprentices in training are retained to protect their future and the investment the industry has made in their education,” he said.

He added that CSQ offers a number of short courses to help workers transition from the resources industry, comply with new safety and licensing requirements and adapt to cutting edge building practices.

Mining Image | Bigstock

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Tom is the founder and publisher of Tools Trades Toys. He has been working as an editor and producing content for the trades for around five years. He loves to tell a good story.

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