Recruitment Outlook for Specialist Trades in Australia

In this briefing for small-medium business owners in Australia, I want to explain why we’re expecting recruitment for specialised trades to continue to be a challenge for several years to come. While we can see demand for jobs in other industries starting to moderate, we don’t believe this is likely to be the case in specialised trades.

Firstly, this graph shows there are on average 300 job ads for plumbers in Melbourne on Seek at any one time. This level is around the highest it has been since Tenfold started tracking construction job ads in mid-2021 when recruitment started becoming a serious challenge. Pre-COVID, this was significantly lower than the levels we’ve seen in the last two years.

Line chart showing job ads for plumbers in Melbourne from June 2021 to June 2023.

The Tenfold Construction Job Index tracks levels of demand for key trades: plumbers, electricians, landscapers, and carpenters. So, while we’ve used plumbers in this briefing, the stats are consistent across all specialist trades we monitor by our business coaches in Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane.

Secondly… the pipeline of infrastructure projects across Australia is increasing this year and next, until the expected peak in 2025. Most of you have experienced team members leaving or candidates choosing to work on highly paid infrastructure projects over your business.

Thirdly… this week, the federal government has also committed an extra $2B to social housing, and the residential new build space is starting to ramp up again…

Continuing with our example of demand for plumbers: based on typical the typical mix of different labour and materials on a residential housing project , then $2B spend on social housing equals 1,000 extra plumbers required.

Fourthly… There is also the proposed Housing Australia Future Fund for $10B of social housing that is being negotiated by the federal government at the moment. When this gets legislated, this will add further demand for specialised trades.

Everyone wants to build stuff; the problem, as you well know, is that qualified trades take 4 years to train, and experienced trades take many more.

Of people who are currently employed, many are not looking to change jobs.

Pie chart showing job seeker activity. 80% of people aren't interested in changing jobs, 5% are actively looking and 15% will change if offered the right role.

Recruitment is a challenge, and we think it is going to stay at or near these levels for many years to come.

Other companies will complain that it is hard to recruit and will continue to hope that things get easier while doing the same things they’ve always done. The key point to note is that we can’t wait for it get easier or hope that we’ll get a lucky spurt of applicants.

My advice as a business coach is that businesses that service the construction sector need to double down on finding other ways to recruit and fill the roles you have available. We need to continue to think laterally and consider how we adapt our operations and proactively target candidates who aren’t actively looking for jobs.

Key takeaways:

  • Don’t think that simply advertising on Seek will solve your recruitment challenges
  • Keep engaging with your Tenfold business coach in thinking outside the box on recruitment; what got you here won’t get you there.

As a business coaching firm, Tenfold has a track record of helping clients ‘do whatever it takes’ to recruit good talent. We are researching, developing, testing, and sharing new ideas so discuss what’s working with your business coach.