Tradie Case Study
Tradie Case Study

Tradies earn big bucks as skills shortage pushes up prices

THE state's infrastructure boom is driving a tradie skills shortage, bumping up salaries into the six figures but making it hard to find a decent plumber, carpenter or bricklayer.

As a result of the massive skills shortage - now in its fourth year in NSW - construction employers can only fill an average of 38 per cent of all vacancies compared to 43 per cent a year ago.

From the WestConnex, to the Western Sydney Airport, Sydney Metro train lines, new hospitals and schools the staggering $87.2 billion spend by the NSW Government is luring many of the best tradies away from the residential sector.

Some of the biggest shortages are for plasterers, where only 11 per cent of vacancies are filed and tilers, where 13 per cent of jobs are filled.

Companies advertising for a tradesmen or woman now only get 4.9 applicants on average, compared to 12.6 applicants in 2009.

Carpenter Brett King working in Pymble. Picture:Justin Lloyd
Carpenter Brett King working in Pymble. Picture:Justin Lloyd

Average salaries for electricians are $91,455, for plumbers $89,568, tilers $86,048, plasterers $79,081 and carpenters are on $77,772.

But insurance specialist company Trade Risk, which has compiled the salary data since 2014, says many tradesmen and women earn far more than that."Over the six years we've been running our report we've seen incomes rise strongly across most construction trades," managing director Shane Moore said.

"While some trades have a lower average income than the national average, our data revealed there are still huge numbers of tradies across a range of trades earning six-figures."

Federal government figures show that while there's slower growth in construction in the residential sector, it will rise 8.2 per cent over the next five years and the non-residential construction will jump 12.5 per cent, or add another 8500 jobs.

The Federal Department of Jobs reports that employers received on average 1.5 qualified applicants per vacancy and the bosses considered 71 per cent of qualified applicants to be "unsuitable".

The main reasons were a lack of qualifications, experience, licences or not having communication skills.

Master Builders NSW executive director Brian Seidler says one of the barriers to getting more tradie workers is parents expecting their children to attend university.

"We're not putting enough kids through apprenticeships," he said. "Those who do go through get a lot of opportunities."


Bricklayer Archie Rudge working on a building site in Newtown. Picture: Liam Driver
Bricklayer Archie Rudge working on a building site in Newtown. Picture: Liam Driver



He said maths should be a compulsory subject, "as some are finding it difficult to complete an apprenticeship because of the need for mathematics".

Global chief executive Gary Workman said good construction workers in Sydney and Melbourne could earn $100,000 a year and have the option of starting a small business down the track.

"We are fixated about youngsters staying at school and being steered to university but there are good jobs out there," he said.

Western Sydney Regional Organisation of Councils chief executive Charles Casuscelli says the skills shortage is a symptom of bigger cultural perception that "exalts" university education and devalues practical skills "that our society is literally built on".

"It seems that students don't commit, or aren't supported, to see out completion of their trade," he said."Despite federal and state government funding initiatives to address the crisis, nothing is countering the prevailing cultural values that preference tertiary education as the definitive measure of success.

"The reality is that many successful tradespeople earn just as much as degree-qualified professionals - often more."

Bricklayer Archie Rudge, 19, said he is always busy especially at jobs in the city and he pockets $45/hour from his boss David Hook, or D&R Bricklaying.

"Jobs are all over Sydney, we go as far as Manly and then into the eastern suburbs. There's been a lot of developments out West... we always struggle to find guys to work," Mr Hook said.

Mr Hook said development seems to be slowing down in the past six months.

Brett King, 30, from Manly, runs his own business King and Co. Carpentry and says that he has definitely noticed the shortage of tradesmen, particuarly due to devices.

"There is definitely a shortage in young tradies and kids wanting to do apprenticeships. I'm trying to figure out why but I think kids are definitely stuck inside more on computer games and phones," he said.

"I have 8 labourers and they are on $45 an hour. Tradesman are on around $65-70 an hour."

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