90,000 extra tradies needed for Albo’s “ambitious” home building plan

Jarrod Brown
By Jarrod Brown
4 Min Read

The construction industry has warned widespread worker shortages will have the Government’s five-year home-building plan starting on the back foot.  

Sold to Australia as the answer to the nation’s crippling housing crisis, the plan to build 1.2 million homes by 2029 is set to begin in the coming months. 

But BuildSkills Australia – a Government task force commissioned to solve the construction labour challenges – said that to stay on track, the industry would need to erect an extra 60,000 new homes each quarter, requiring an additional 90,000 people tradies than more than currently exists.

The group’s executive director of research and planning, Robert Sobyra, said the shortfall would have the project ‘chasing its own tail’ as the backlog of homes increases year-on-year. 

“Mid-2024’s just around the corner. There’s no way we’re adding that many workers to the industry by then,” Sobyra told the ABC. 

“So what that would mean is … this year’s 60,000 [homes] a quarter would have to be 100,000 next year in order to make up what we don’t deliver this year.”

Modelling by BuildSkills also predicts demands on the broader construction sector w produce a 40 per cent shortfall in labour by as early as 2040.

Housing Minister Julie Collins told Sky News the Government knew it was an “ambitious housing target” but was committed to getting the job done. 

“We know we’ve got a lot of work to do,” she said. 

“We’re working right across government – I know the skills ministers had a meeting just over two weeks ago, where they talked about the skills required to meet the housing demand in Australia and the challenges we currently have.”

90,000 tradies in 90 days

In response to the findings, Master Builders Australia CEO Denita Wawn told reporters that the industry needs to be “raining tradies” if there was any hope of meeting project demand in the coming years. 

“We desperately need more people. It sounds unrealistic. It probably is. But I think this figure just really reflects the difficulty that we’re going to have if we don’t resolve the tradie shortage in meeting the agreed target of 1.2 million homes over five years,” she said.

“The clock starts ticking on 1 July and we’ve got a huge, huge issue to resolve and we’re working hard to try and see if we can at least alleviate it by a certain number, but I don’t think we’ll ever meet 90,000.”

As pressure mounts to deliver the promised housing supply, Ms Wawn called on the Government to focus on “three key areas” of migration, skills training and tradie retention to ease the crisis. 

According to Master Builders, a “large number” of skilled migrant tradies settled in Australia find it “too expensive and too cumbersome” to get their licenses recognised, forcing them to leave the industry altogether. 

“We as an industry need to make sure that we’re not only retaining the current tradies, we’re actually calling back the ones that have maybe decided enough is enough,” said Ms Wawn. 

“Around 8 per cent of the workforce is likely to be lost to retirement and departures from the industry each year – equivalent to over 100,000 people per year.”

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Jarrod Brown combines his background in journalism, copywriting and digital marketing with a lifelong passion for storytelling. He has a strong passion for new and emerging consumer technology within the building sector. He lives on the Sunshine Coast - usually found glued to the deck of a surfboard.