Skills shortage to stall building industry

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A major housing lobby group has called for the skilled migration intake to include a component targeted at the residential sector, following a survey showing the skills shortage is continuing.

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The Housing Industry Industry of Australia-Austral Bricks Trade Availability Index fell to minus 0.09 per cent in the June quarter, a slight improvement from minus 0.11 in the March quarter.

A reading below zero represents a skills shortage and the index was last above this level in the June quarter of 2009, when it was at 0.10.

HIA chief economist Harley Dale said the shortage of skilled labour was preventing an adequate supply of new homes and skilled migration should include component for the residential building sector.

“There are many areas requiring urgent attention, including reversing the growing rate of attrition of first-year apprentices,” Dr Dale said in a statement on Tuesday.

Dr Dale said the rate of attrition for first-year skilled apprentices was 33 per cent, while the overall numbers who failed to complete an apprenticeship was high.

“There is obviously a significant lead time involved with policies required to tackle the domestic challenges related to apprentices and training.

“It is therefore important that Australia’s skilled migration intake include a component specifically targeted at the residential sector, something the current system doesn’t achieve,” Harley Dale said.

The latest survey also found that the cost of labour rose 0.6 per cent in the June quarter for an annual pace of 3.2 per cent.

Eight out of 13 trades surveyed were found to have skills shortages, including bricklaying, carpentry, ceramic tiling and plumbing.

The jobless rate in Australia was 5.1 per cent in June, according to the latest Australian Bureau of Statistics data.

That figure is a shave away from the five per cent level referred to by economists as `total employment’, a benchmark jobless rate beyond which economy-wide skills shortages start to appear.