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Calls grow for skilled migration to ease skilled worker shortage

Team builder working adjust pillar with crane lifting prefabricated pillar concrete for installation in project house construction site. Steel formwork support.

Master Builders Australia has released a report calling for added emphasis on skilled migration to ease Australia’s building and construction skilled worker shortage.

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Released just last week as part of the association’s pre-budget submission, the report highlights the critical intersection of Australia’s skilled worker shortage and the housing crisis, identifying the lack of supply as the main driver. To combat the lack of supply, the Australian Government has set a target of constructing 1.2 million new houses by 2029 – a target the report says will not be achieved with the domestic workforce alone, hence the need to tap into the “under-utilised cohort” of skilled migrants already in the country.

“There are a number of skilled migrants already in Australia who are working in roles below or unrelated to their qualifications or work experience in their home country,” said MBA CEO, Denita Wawn.

“Some are waiting on skills assessments or qualifications recognition, which, according to the Parkinson Migration Review, could cost nearly $10,000 and take up to 18 months.”


To combat this, MBA has recommended – among other things – subsidising the cost of upskilling or training to fill any skills or qualification gaps between the migrant’s home qualification and the Australian requirements, the full list of which can be read here.

Additionally, the MBA has taken aim at the prevailing attitude that sees vocational training being viewed as “second-class” when compared to tertiary study, in lieu of a 25 per cent reduction in new apprentices starting in the building and construction industries.

“Master Builders has long advocated for the bias that leads people away from the VET system to be dissolved,” said Wawn. “We need to change people’s perceptions of working and needing a vocational education to look at trades as a pathway into a vibrant, well-paid and very large industry.”

According to the latest apprenticeships and trainee data, 42,333 new apprentices began work in building and construction from September 2022 to September 2023. Compounding this was the decrease in apprentices in training over the same period, going down by 2.7 per cent from 124,120 to 120,881 over the same period.

“Making VET more attractive plays a crucial role in strengthening our domestic workforce capabilities,” said Wawn. “We need more apprentices starting and completing their training in trades.”

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