It’s that time of year when school leavers all across Australia celebrate their freedom. But for many graduates that joy will be short lived, as the sobering prospect of job hunting and embarking on a new career sets in.
In today’s job market, many young people are having trouble transitioning to employment — particularly when moving from University into the workforce. Fortunately, for Sydney's class of 2015, a wealth of career opportunities in building and construction have become available — without young people needing to attend uni to access them. The local industry is thriving and we’re crying out for skilled trade labour to meet demand — with government and private enterprise happy to invest.
The expansive Barangaroo development is a perfect example. At Lathams, we’re pleased to see the project is supporting new apprenticeships, building skills and fostering job opportunities for school leavers. Read on to find out how they’re achieving it.
Why we need more apprentices
Australia has exhibited labour shortages across a multitude of skilled trades for many years, particularly in building and construction occupations (such as plumbing, carpentry, tiling and painting). In NSW, recent Government investment into new infrastructure has caused demand for these skills to soar further. Without addressing this skills deficit, we could face significant delays in the completion of future construction projects.
Insufficient supply of local construction workers has largely been driven by a lack of suitable qualifications and experience. To combat this problem, several government initiatives have been designed to increase the uptake of Australian apprenticeships in recent years ― many of which target school leavers. Unfortunately, completion rates for these apprentices have been low, and it’s becoming increasingly difficult for the current trades workforce to meet demand.
Some of the need for skilled construction labour has already been met by overseas workers. This has created some issues for domestic employment; NSW Skills Minister John Barilaro recently vocalised his concerns over the use of 457 visas to fill industry shortages, commenting that they may come at the cost of job opportunities for school leavers and young Australians. However, according to the Australian Government Department of Employment, foreign workers have made a limited contribution to the overall supply of NSW construction workers in the past three years ― suggesting that domestic employment opportunities are not at risk.
Building careers in construction at Barangaroo
One positive example of how the skills shortage is being tackled is happening right now at Sydney's Barangaroo development.
An innovative training hub known as the Barangaroo Skills Exchange (BSX) was created in 2012, as a partnership between Lend Lease, TAFE NSW and the Construction and Property Services Industry Skills Council. They’ve joined forces to improve employment opportunities via an on-site learning hub. This initiative signifies enormous job opportunities for school leavers and young workers in Sydney; a place where they can undertake new apprenticeships, obtain industry support and access ongoing employment until the Barangaroo development is completed in 2023.
Supported by the Australian Government, BSX has received $7.3 million towards the delivery of four training programs at Barangaroo South:
- WELL — a workplace-based program focused on language, literacy and numeracy skills;
- The National Workforce Development Fund — to encourage more workers in the building and construction industry to obtain their Certificate III or higher;
- Investing in Experience — an up-skilling program to retrain mature age workers; and,
- Apprentice Mentoring.
Constructing brighter futures for young workers
Many apprenticeship and training programs are limited to short term contracts, which often don’t extend beyond 6 months. This creates a problem in the continuity of training and skills development.
However, with the Barangaroo development projected to take 10 years to complete, BSX is well positioned to provide sustainable employment opportunities for participants long into the future. But will the initiative actually improve the completion outcomes of young apprentices ― and address the construction skills shortage?
Well, the statistics are already looking good. Since BSX opened in 2012, around 19,000 accredited training outcomes have been achieved by students. A further 7,000 workers have undertaken on-site skills training though the program. These results are testament to why BSX has been recognised with awards such as the Premier’s Partnership Award and the NSW Department of Industry’s 2014 Industry Collaboration Award.
With a commitment to provide 50,000 successful training outcomes over the course of Barangaroo’s 10-year construction period, the future of young Aussie construction apprentices looks promising.
Want to know more about Sydney’s monumental Barangaroo development? Find more facts in our 2016 Global Construction Trends Update which you can download below.