The Federal Government has announced that it will be investing $90.6 million to bolster the skills of the workforce in the construction and housing sector. 

The government said that the funding comes as part of a big focus on housing in the 2024-25 Budget and that it is essential to help close the national skills gap and provide the skilled workforce the economy needs to increase housing supply.

The commitment is set to help Australia get to its national goal of 1.2 million more homes.

This Budget is expected to remove cost barriers to education and training and incentivise Australians to train in areas the economy needs them most, with $88.8 million for 20,000 additional Fee-Free TAFE training places to increase the pipeline of workers for construction and housing. 

These places include: 

  • $62.4 million, working with states and territories, to deliver an additional 15,000 Fee-Free TAFE and VET places over two years from 1 January 2025
  • $26.4 million, working with states and territories, to deliver approximately 5,000 places in pre-apprenticeship programs over two years from 1 January 2025

The Federal Government’s 20,000 additional Fee-Free training places will grow Australia’s skilled housing and construction workforce, building on the success of Fee-Free TAFE in 2023. 

Places may be offered by both TAFEs and industry Registered Training Organisations that provide specialised and high-quality training in the sector. 

To 31 December 2023, Fee-Free TAFE supported over 355,000 student enrolments nationally. 

Enrolments in Fee-Free TAFE were strong across all priority sectors, with over 24,000 construction sector course enrolments in 2023. 

Of these 24,000 enrolments, more than 3,000 of them were by women.

The new pre-apprenticeships places will support more people to move into a construction apprenticeship and succeed in training, by providing students with a taste of industry experience before choosing to become an apprentice. 

The government has said that engaging migrants is also critical to meeting skills needs in Australia’s construction and housing sector. 

That’s why the Budget also includes $1.8 million to streamline skills assessments for around 1,900 potential migrants from countries with comparable qualifications who want to work in Australia’s construction and housing sector, and prioritise the processing of around 2,600 Trades Recognition Australia skills assessments in targeted occupations.

This will mean more skilled workers to help Australia build more homes. 

It also builds on the commitment in the Government’s Migration Strategy to improve the approach to skills recognition and assessments.  

Federal Minister for Skills and Training, Brendan O’Connor, said that this Budget continues the Federal Government’s work to build a stronger Vocational Education and Training sector which is what we need to skill Australians for the future, and support more people into secure, well-paid work.   

“In the previous National meeting of Skills Ministers, we added delivering housing supply to priorities on our national skills agenda, and these investments will support and strengthen Australia’s residential housing capability,” Mr O’Connor said. 

“This is a great opportunity for people to gain a trade whilst accessing government incentives and reducing cost of living pressures through more affordable housing.”

Federal Minister for Housing, Homelessness and Small Business, Julie Collins, said that building more homes is the best way to address Australia’s housing challenges, which is why the government has an national target to build 1.2 million homes. 

“More homes mean more affordable options for everyone – whether they’re buying, renting or needing a safe space for the night,” Ms Collins said. 

“But to build more homes we need more tradies, and that is what this announcement will deliver. It’s just one way we’re working across government to build the homes Australia needs.”

Industry response

Master Builders Australia’s CEO, Denita Wawn, responded to the Federal Government’s announcement, saying that Master Builders has long advocated that Australia must do more to boost its domestic capacity and make it easier for migrants to work in the industry.

“We have worked closely with the government to make these policies a reality and thank Minister O’Connor and Minister Collins for responding to our concerns,” Ms Wawn said. 

“If we are going to have any chance of building enough homes we have to prioritise capacity building of the industry.

“Workforce shortages remain the biggest source of cost pressure and disruption for the building and construction industry.

“Despite a sizeable workforce of 1.35 million Australians, the industry has an annual exit rate of eight per cent, and we are only replacing half of those people per year.

“Our recent report into productivity found prolonged labour shortages are reducing industry output by $50 billion dollars and thousands of homes over the next five years.”

In its pre-budget submissions, Master Builders put forward several policy proposals to increase participation in the industry.

“The announcement of Fee-Free TAFE and VET places rightfully recognises the role of not-for-profit industry-led registered training organisations in training the next generation of tradies.

“It’s now up to state and territory governments to ensure industry-run RTOs are held on equal footing with TAFE.

“Industry-run RTOs like those run by Master Builders associations around the country have excellent retention and completion rates, provide pastoral care and support to apprentices that help them find success in their trade.

“We know in the short-term the domestic workforce cannot keep up with demand. Skilled migration represents a vital piece of the puzzle.

“The investment into prioritising and streamlining skills assessments for potential migrants and those already in the country is welcome news.”

Ms Wawn said that for many migrants, it is simply too hard to have their professional capacity recognised to work in a trade in Australia and they are instead in roles that present fewer hurdles to obtain.

“The Parkinson Migration Review found skills assessments or qualification recognition can take up to 18 months and cost nearly $10,000; time and money people simply don’t have in this economic climate.

“There is still a long way to go and Master Builders will continue to work closely with the government to ensure we make the building and construction industry as attractive as possible.”

Image: M2020/

Related articles

©2024 Infrastructure Magazine. All rights reserved


We're not around right now. But you can send us an email and we'll get back to you, asap.


Log in with your credentials

Forgot your details?