30/01/2008 - 22:00

Trade worker shortage costly

30/01/2008 - 22:00

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Trade workers in Western Australia’s housing industry remained in short supply during the final quarter of 2007, placing more upward pressure on house prices, according to the latest HIA-Austral Bricks Trades Report.

Trade worker shortage costly

Trade workers in Western Australia’s housing industry remained in short supply during the final quarter of 2007, placing more upward pressure on house prices, according to the latest HIA-Austral Bricks Trades Report.

Despite a slight improvement in availability during the December quarter as a result of easing housing demand, the availability of trade workers in WA remained in decline, the report found.

The cost of trade workers increased further in the December quarter, and over the whole year there was a 7 per cent growth in trade prices.

The HIA report reinforced the results of the Department of Employment and Workplace Relations December 2007 skilled vacancy report, which found that construction was the sector experiencing the biggest increase in vacancies.

Its skilled vacancies index, which tracks all trades and professions nationally, increased by 1.9 per cent in the month of December but fell by 0.6 per cent over the year.

In contrast, the vacancy index for construction trades increased by 3.7 per cent in December and by 20.3 per cent over the year.

The other segment with a compar-able rise was metal trades, which rose 2.5 per cent for the month and 17.4 per cent for the year.

The DEEWR report’s state-by-state breakdown showed that WA’s skilled vacancy index declined by 14.6 per cent over the year to December, but was still at the highest level of all the mainland states. 

The report found there were 1,153 vacancies in WA in December, also higher than for any other state.

HIA executive director Sheryl Chaffer said housing activity forecasts predicted the slow down in building activity would continue in early 2008 but a recovery of the housing market would eventuate.

“The HIA remains concerned that the pool of tradespeople has not increased and deficiencies in the skill base will resurface and add to housing affordability pressures in WA in the future,” she said.

“Trade shortages are continuing to put upward pressure on the price for construction of new houses and this further emphasises the need for immediate measures to address skill shortages.”

The HIA report found that, nationally, all 13 residential construction trades surveyed were still in short supply.

Its trade availability index fell for a fourth straight quarter to minus 0.51 and all trades within the index were in the negative.

Bricklayers remain in critically short supply with significant skill shortages also in joinery and carpentry. 

Besides Perth, the most severely affected areas were Adelaide, regional Queensland and Brisbane.

Not surprisingly, the report highlights that shortages exist where building activity remains relatively buoyant.

“Alarmingly, the availability of trades skills declined in seven of the 10 regions surveyed,” HIA senior executive director (industry policy) Chris Lamont said.

Ms Chaffer said shortages in professional building trades provided exciting and rewarding opportunities for school leavers.

“Underlying demand for residential construction continues to outpace supply and therefore employment opportunities in residential construction have never been better. The industry certainly has a lot to offer, and desperately needs more entrants,” she said.

“While the rewards are there in the medium to long term, more needs to be done to improve the flexibility and practicality of trades training to appeal to a wider audience and address acute skills shortages.”

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