“It has become more expensive to do this,” Dale says.
A number of construction worker categories, including bricklayers, carpenters and joiners and electricians, are on the list of occupations for the ‘medium term’ temporary skills shortage visa, the 482 class visa.
Dale says builders acknowledge there is a slowdown of construction work on the east coast, but says certain jobs will be in short supply even as some parts of the housing market slow down.
“We have 12-15 years of our own survey evidence that shows even in a downturn, bricklayers and ceramic tilers remain in shortage,” he says.
Across a range of small businesses, skills shortages are a common concern. The most recent ‘Canary in the Coalmine’ report from Prushka Fast Debt Recovery, released last week, found 16 per cent of small businesses said shortage of talent had stopped them growing in the past year.
Labour market reports from the department of jobs and small business show that in 2018, 36 per cent of construction vacancies were filled in Victoria and there were 0.6 qualified applicants per vacancy.
In New South Wales, 38 per cent of vacancies were filled and there was 0.5 qualified candidates per advertised vacant job on average.
A Labor Party spokesperson said its policy on skilled worker visas was aimed at preventing overseas workers from being paid less than local workers, with four out of five skilled visas granted where there was no recognised skills shortage.
The visa system would continue to operate to address genuine skills shortages, the party said.
“Labor believes there is no excuse for a skills shortage to last one day longer that it takes to train an Australian to do that job – especially if a particular industry is booming – and we’ll train local workers with our plans to invest in TAFE and higher education,” the spokesperson said.
Apprentices also costing resources
The struggle to find talent is occurring as building companies pour resources into finding and keeping apprentices, Dale says.
Master Builders Australia has talent front of mind too, arguing the incoming government must work to deliver 300,000 skilled construction workers in the next five years to meet demand.
The major parties have both pledged to overhaul apprenticeships and training in competing policy announcements.
Labor has committed to a $1 billion policy suite to roll out in years to come including incentives for 150,000 apprentices in areas deemed to have skills shortages.
On Friday, the Liberal party pledged $60 million in a wage subsidies program to encourage apprentices to take up in-demand jobs in with a focus on regional areas.
Follow MySmallBusiness on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.
Emma is the small business reporter for The Age and Sydney Morning Herald based in Melbourne.