HIA urges skilled worker reform to hit housing target

February 9, 2024 BY

The HIA is urging the federal government to implement a multi-pronged approach to bring many more skilled tradespeople and other key workers into the industry. Photo: DARREN ENGLAND/AAP IMAGE

The Housing Industry Association (HIA) says the federal government will fall well short of its five-year target to build 1.2 million homes unless Australia’s major shortage of skilled tradespeople is dealt with soon.

Earlier this week, HIA announced it had lodged its pre-budget submission, which outlined initiatives that could be taken by the federal government to ease the problems in the building industry.

“HIA has called on the government to implement a multi-pronged approach to bring many more skilled tradespeople and other key workers into the industry,” HIA managing director Jocelyn Martin said.

“HIA recognises the challenges brought about by the lack of skills won’t be fixed overnight, but there are some measures that the government could take to help ease the labour shortage.

“For instance, too often doing a trade or going into construction is seen as a lesser career option, and we are calling on the federal government to instigate a widespread education program to better promote the substantive career opportunities that exist in the building industry.”

Ms Martin said HIA would like the government to make a clear long-term commitment to indexed apprentice and employer subsidies, which would encourage more employers to take on apprentices and to support them through their apprenticeships.

“To incentivise apprentices to continue with their training, a ‘tool bonus’ or ‘tool rewards’ program could be introduced, consisting of a $1,000 tool bonus starter kit and a $500 supplement per year. This would help build up their tool kits and reward for year on year milestones through their apprenticeship.

“As well as policies to help attract apprentices, meaningful reform to the immigration system needs to be implemented to replenish the dwindling supply of skilled workers. This should include developing a streamlined and simplified visa program for in-demand trades and support this with an education and awareness program to assist participants to navigate the process.”

She said the industry was keen to innovate and improve sustainable practices, but this to date had only resulted in more and more regulation being placed on building businesses.

“In addition, economic uncertainty leads to greater business risk for builders.

“We are therefore seeking support and dedicated funding to enable businesses to upskill themselves and their workers on major reforms, support for regulatory change and business education.

“A strong construction workforce is the only way that Australia will ever solve the problem of housing affordability.

“If the federal government is to realise its bold goal of 1.2 million much-needed homes in five years, HIA strongly recommends the government adopt the recommendations contained in the submission.”

To download the HIA’s 2024-2025 Pre-Budget Submission, head to hia.com.au