Tradies hit jobs jackpot
High demand is fuelling the earning capacity of South Australia’s tradespeople, Hannah Silverman reports.
ACARPENTERS, painters and bricklayers are among the state’s most cashed-up tradies. Because of high demand and the complex skills involved, experts say it’s not unusual for these tradespeople to enjoy salaries that exceed $80,000.
Meanwhile, wet trades such as concreting and bricklaying can generate upwards of $55,000 for qualified workers.
Housing Industry Association SA executive director Robert Harding said carpenters were the biggest money earners.
‘‘Across the general construction trades, it’s generally accepted that carpenters can earn the most money and they have the best opportunities for career advancement,’’ he says.
‘‘Bricklayers have also earned extraordinarily good money because in times of high (building) activity, they are in demand and they can claim quite a significant amount of money per brick.’’
Plumbers and electricians with strong skill sets that service the high end of the market are also able to command high pay.
Master Builders Association of South Australia chief executive Rob Stewart said construction trades often led to lucrative careers.
In fact, the industry had already witnessed success stories in Scott Salisbury Homes managing director Scott Salisbury, AV Jennings general manager John Howarth and Badge Constructions managing director Jim Whiting, who made their fortunes by establishing their own highearning businesses.
NEW projects within the mining and defence industries have created a shift in demand for skilled tradespeople. But experts warn that the industry needs to ensure skills are transferable to keep up with the new demand.
SA Unions secretary Janet Giles acknowledges the mining and defence sectors will be the state’s biggest industries in the future.
‘‘Our economy in South Australia is shifting from largely based on manufacturing into mining and defence and we’re going to have to shift where the skills go,’’ she says.
‘‘That’s why it’s very important that we develop skills that are transferable so if you’ve got a really good apprentice, then they can go all over the place.’’
Ms Giles says there are lessons to be learnt from the mining boom in Western Australia. ‘‘What hap- pened in Western Australia was a lot of the trained, skilled people went into mining and created significant shortages in other sectors, like manufacturing and construction, because the money was better so people would shift,’’ she says.
‘‘We’ve learnt from Western Australia but there’s still a lot of work to be done .. .
‘‘The approach that we’ve got is to try to plan around that.’’
Casting the net further, it’s not only the mining industries that are affected by the skills shortage.
Figures from TAFE SA show the top five trades apprenticeship commencements in 2009 were for electricians, carpenters, hairdressers, chefs and motor mechanics – areas that are in consistent demand.
Department of Further Education, Employment, Science and Technology chief executive Raymond Garrand says those apprentice commencements are likely to indicate the trades that are in short supply.
‘‘According to the state’s Training and Skills Commission, South Australia is expected to have around 134,000 job openings over the next five years,’’ he says.
‘‘This includes around 53,000 new jobs due to economic growth and 81,000 replacement jobs through workers retiring or changing occupations.
‘‘Many of these jobs will be in trade-intensive sectors, with about 5000 job openings in the mining and engineering sectors in the next five years. The commission estimates that about 11,000 people are employed in the defence industry, with strong growth expected for the future.’’
It also suggests that between 5000 and 10,000 jobs are expected to open in the building and construction industry in five years because of growth and replacement demand.
Ms Giles says there are two major factors fuelling the trades shortage.
‘‘The skilled shortage is being driven by, one, change in demographic like baby boomers who are the skilled tradespeople and who are close to retirement age now, and also a significant reduction in the apprentice program,’’ she says.
Carpenter Rose Squire working at Aldinga Beach.