Big issues Illawarra construction industry face 24 minutes ago

CONSTRUCTION BOOM: The HIA estimates an annual average of about 2400 new building approvals for the Illawarra, 1400 are units and townhouses. Picture: Adam McLean

CONSTRUCTION BOOM: The HIA estimates an annual average of about 2400 new building approvals for the Illawarra, 1400 are units and townhouses. Picture: Adam McLean

The Housing Industry Association executive director NSW, and Mount Pleasant local, David Bare was in Wollongong this week to discuss issues affecting the region with the Illawarra South Coast Committee. He also made time to speak with the Illawarra Mercury.

Maintaining housing supply, the unemployment level and being able to track trades had the main focus of the HIA, Mr Bare said.

“As a local, I see the Illawarra as a real opportunity to be a target for the state government, for doing more to attract young people to the skilled trades,” he said.

Despite the region’s growing population and the “significant uplift” in housing approvals, the region is struggling to attract enough skilled trades.

It comes as thousands of HSC students receive their ATARs on Friday and again consider which career path to take.

On Thursday the NSW Business Chamber also put out a call for more apprentices, stating 85.5 per cent of apprentices were in full-time employment six months after completing their training versus 68 per cent of university graduates (according to their 2015 Australian Jobs Report).

Mr Bare agreed and said the skill shortage was due to a number of reasons such as lack of promotion, parents’ influence and the perception of the industry.

“They can really suffer in downturn periods, so a lot of people don’t stick around … it’s not promoted well enough by the state government or in indeed within schools as a legitimate career option,” he said.

“I think it gets a bit of a wrap as too much hard work … [especially] brick laying, wall and floor tilers, and so forth, so those that are a bit more heavier and messier, but those can build successful businesses.

“We’ve got a lot of kids coming out of uni with double degrees and no job whereas if a trade was more suitable they wouldn’t have any trouble getting work.”

TRADES NEEDED: The NSW Business Chamber says 85.5 per cent of apprentices were in full-time employment six months after completing their training versus 68 per cent of university graduates. Picture: Pat Scala

TRADES NEEDED: The NSW Business Chamber says 85.5 per cent of apprentices were in full-time employment six months after completing their training versus 68 per cent of university graduates. Picture: Pat Scala

Mr Bare said there is plenty of work around the Illawarra as the construction outlook for the next 12 months at least, was still very strong.

“Everyone of our members in the region is busy, we’re also seeing a kick up in not just new building but also renovation building and also to a degree the knock-down-rebuild … people have got more head room in the value of their property so it’s reasonable to renovate,” he said.

Mr Bare also downplayed talk of “oversupply” of units in the area, despite more than half of new development applications accounting for units or apartments. This is something he expected the region to see more of in the future.

“If you look at Illawarra building approvals they’re running at an annual average of about 2400, 1400 are units and townhouses,” he said.

“I think there’s a strong market for both new dwellings and also for rental properties in the region … plus units and townhouses are a more affordable option these days as well.”

However, for construction to continue at a healthy and sustainable level, and maintain housing supply, Mr Bare said there needs to be adequate infrastructure in place for new developments – something the HIA is very passionate about.

“The state government is doing a great job at the moment to push those through but with things like the council amalgamations and so forth we’ll have to see what impact that has on getting things done,” Mr Bare said.

“I’m hearing already that there are delays appearing across a number of councils as a result.”

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