Construction industry forecast need for more apprentices

Construction industry forecast need for more apprentices

  • Published on Monday 27 April, 2015
  • 7 min. to read


With the Future Forecasts: Construction and Property Services Skills report and the Construction and Property Services Industry Skills Council (CPSISC) e-scan predicting an upturn in the construction market, your business will need to be agile enough to take advantage of new projects.

According to the e-scan, the lower interest rates and incentives to buy new homes, established house prices, auction clearance rates, and new dwellings approvals have all grown strongly recently, and suggest a pick-up in investment in coming months. It says that finance commitments for new dwellings are now 12.4 per cent higher than a year ago and building approvals have improved noticeably from their trough in early 2012. The e-scan goes further in predicting an increase in the number of infrastructure projects, particularly because the Federal Treasurer is seeking to launch a national construction program (with spotlight on red tape) to underpin national growth over the next few years.

On the flip side, the Master Builders Australia report on national availability of labour, provides a good picture of the difficulty in finding skilled labour. This means it is getting tougher for businesses to ensure they are structured appropriately.

Interestingly, the report indicates the difficulty in finding support office staff is quite high – prompting me to again promote the value of business traineeships.

The e-scan reiterates its 2013 emphasis on the need to replace skilled, older workers – and this in turn puts pressure on businesses to invest time in bringing young people up to speed.
It means the younger worker will not provide as big a return on investment, or as quickly, as a fully qualified or 4th year apprentice in the short term, but the longer we put off employing younger apprentices, the worse it will become in having fully qualified workers available.

So given the difficulty in finding skilled labour, what should a business be doing differently – or more of?

Over the last 31 years our experience is that the media businesses use to attract prospective apprentices to job vacancies has changed – except the most successful way – through personal contacts and referrals. And the way job seekers are finding out about work, is also through personal contacts – just using a different media.

In a recent survey of the apprentices we employ and place with businesses across Australia, most young people are still saying they just don’t read print news – but they do use their networks to help them decide on their career.
Peer endorsement is really important and can affect the number of applicants you are getting for your job vacancies.

35.56% of our own apprentices use Facebook all the time; 25.94% are using it often. On top of this, there are all the other social media networks with different levels of popularity. Social networking is the basis for their peer endorsement.
The UK Commission for Employment and Skills published in November 2014 provides insight into the thoughts and behaviour of over 18,000 employers across the UK as they make decisions about how to engage with training providers, schools, colleges and individuals in the wider skills system, to get the skills they need.
According to the UK survey, around three quarters of employers used free private recruitment channels such as word of mouth, their own website, internal notices or through other free websites. Word of mouth continues to be the most commonly used private recruitment channel, used by 30 per cent of employers. Since 2012, there has been an increase in use of social media as a recruitment channel (from three to seven per cent), but this remains substantially less used than other more established ‘private free’ channels.

28% of those UK employers used work experience as a recruitment tool. They give a young person the opportunity of work experience while they are still at school, and then pick the person that works out best for their business. In Australia, we are lucky to have the Australian School-based Apprenticeships system as a formalised approach so the young person also has the support mentoring and the appropriate training to go with it.

So if you are to ‘fish where the fish are’ when looking for new staff, it’s pretty clear it’s a good idea to drop the word around to school teachers, to parents, to people you know and get into the social media space.

Just be aware that while you check out the candidates on social media to see what type of person they are – candidates are also looking at you. Managing your reputation works both ways and blog forums can be lethal.
We’ve got a free job vacancy service for employers wanting apprentices and trainees and we have had to adjust the site to allow young people to upload a variety of formats of applications I never would have considered before; including taking photos of every page of their resume and sending each page as a separate picture. Friends are texting photos of web pages with the jobs on them – and telling each other to check it out. So job applications are coming in via an increasing array of formats beyond the traditional PDFs and Word documents.

It’s all fast communication – fast decision making – and heavily based on peer endorsement.

To keep up with this trend, the way we have been writing recruitment ads has been changing and we’re seeing the difference in the number of applicants. If the young person we want to hire makes a decision based on the first few words they see on their phone or in a text – then the first lines of the ad need to include the reason why someone should work in that job. If you’re not getting the number of applicants you used to – then try out different descriptions on the free job sites and see what works best.

End of January to end of February and then September to end of October are major times of year for taking on apprentices and getting them into their courses, signing them up in their Training Contract and getting things sorted at the same time the building industry gets back into full swing.

The competition for the best applicants is between you and every other construction industry employer and can mean either you are the one with the extra pair of hands you need – or the one that has to make do. Or worse, you could miss out on projects because of lack of resources.

The Construction industry has always used its connections for work – tradies networking with suppliers and other tradies. Turn them into your recruitment network and put the word out about why you’re a good boss to work for. And take the plunge into the ether for the networking power of social media. Check out candidates online and make sure your own profile is a good one. If in doubt – ask a teenager!