Skilled worker reform needed to build 1.2 million homes

by | Feb 3, 2024

Home Industry Association logoThe Federal Government’s target of building 1.2 million homes over the next five years will fall well short, says Housing Industry Association (HIA) Managing Director Jocelyn Martin, if Australia’s chronic shortage of skilled tradespeople is not dealt with soon.

“HIA has lodged its pre-budget submission outlining key initiatives that could be taken by the Federal Government to ease the problems in the building industry caused by the severe lack of tradespeople in the country,” Ms Martin said.

HIA has called on the Government to implement a multi-pronged approach to bring many more skilled tradespeople and other key workers into the industry.

“HIA recognises the challenges brought about by the lack of skills will not be fixed overnight but there are some measures that the Government could take to help ease the labour shortage,” Ms Martin said.

“For instance, too often doing a trade or going into construction is seen as a lesser career option and we are calling on the Federal Government to instigate a widespread education program to better promote the substantive career opportunities that exist in the building industry.”

“HIA would like the Government to make a clear long-term commitment to indexed apprentice and employer subsidies to encourage more employers to take on apprentices and to support them through their apprenticeships.”

To incentivise apprentices to continue with their training, HIA proposes a ‘tool bonus’ or ‘tool rewards’ program that could be introduced consisting of a $1,000 tool bonus starter kit and a $500 supplement per year. This would help build up their toolkits and reward them for year-on-year milestones through their apprenticeship.

“As well as policies to help attract apprentices, meaningful reform to the immigration system needs to be implemented to replenish the dwindling supply of skilled workers. This should include developing a streamlined and simplified visa program for in-demand trades and supporting this with an education and awareness program to assist participants in navigating the process,” Ms Martin said.

“Our industry is keen to innovate and improve sustainable practices but to date, this has resulted in more and more regulation being placed on building businesses. In addition, economic uncertainty leads to greater business risk for builders.”

“We are therefore seeking support and dedicated funding to enable businesses to upskill themselves and their workers on major reforms, support for regulatory change and business education.”

“A strong construction workforce is the only way that Australia will ever solve the problem of housing affordability. If the Federal Government is to realise its bold goal of 1.2 million much-needed homes in five years, HIA strongly recommends the Government adopt the recommendations contained in the submission,” concluded Ms Martin.

The Housing Industry Association (HIA’s) 2024-2025 Pre-Budget Submission can be downloaded here: https://hia.com.au/our-industry/newsroom/industry-policy/2024/01/2024-25-pre-budget-submission.