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Interview with Luke Grant, 2GB Sydney


Event: Interview with Luke Grant, 2GB Sydney
Date: 9 April 2024, 9:40am AEST
Speakers: Denita Wawn, CEO Master Builders Australia
Topics: Labour shortages, skilled migration


Luke Grant, 2GB Sydney Host: I want to talk again to Denita Wawn, as CEO of Master Builders, who joins me on the line. Hi Denita, hope you’re well.

Denita Wawn, CEO Master Builders Australia: Thanks, Luke. Likewise.

Luke: It’s… it’s a sad and sorry state of affairs I have to say, it never appears that government can come back with an answer to all of this, and you and I’ve spoken about it before, but again, we have to point out the bleeding obvious, which is, we simply aren’t, within the Australian population, creating enough skilled workers.

Denita: No we’re not unfortunately, and those who try and have done an apprenticeship we still unfortunately have very high failure rates with only 50% completing. We need to ensure that we bump up that figure of completion rate. We need to get more people into trades including women. And we also need to be looking at skilled migration, and while there’s a lot of talk, we still need more action on the ground.

Luke: Look, it seems to me that that migration, I mean if we’re going to have a shortage of houses, it would make sense that, righto, let’s just turn the tap off a little. That doesn’t mean we have to exclude skilled people, we need skilled people and find a way to attract more of them into Australia, but I assume a skills shortage is not just, you know, stuck to Australia, it’s in fact something that exists all around the world. Does it concern you that so many people have come into the country and so a few those people are making a dent on the numbers of skilled trades men and women we’re short off?

 Denita: Well look, at Master Builders we’re really concerned that we’re not focusing on targeted, skilled migration and that we’re still treating trade skills as second class citizens from a perspective on migration. We’re trying to change that in discussions with government. But the thing that astonishes me Luke, is that the number of people I talk to as I catch Ubers and taxis is that, the number of people working in hospitality who are trade qualified, but find it very expensive to get their trades that they’ve learned in other countries recognised in Australia. They find it too expensive to do the skills gap training, they find the quagmire of licensing too hard. So we have proposed to the federal government that for the budget, that you actually put some money aside to help those who are already in Australia, that are underutilised, with their existing skills because they find our system too difficult.

Luke: That’s such a great point. And I think we might have spoken, or someone raised with me, a tradie from Ireland, who was qualified, it might have been a plumber, and they were waiting six, six to 12 months. Now I don’t know how different the water and the s-traps and everything else is in Ireland, but surely someone who’s an existing tradie in another country, we could do some intense training in a month or less and say righto then, go on your way and create great work. It goes too long doesn’t it?

Denita: It does. Yeah, up to 18 months, at least a cost of 10, if not 15 thousand dollars and people find also, the system just too difficult to navigate. You would think like the UK, where they have said that if you have skills that are not necessarily totally recognized in our country, we’ll give you a provisional restricted license. We think that that makes sense. But in a country where we can’t even have recognition of skills between states, I find it ridiculous that my 16 and 17-year-olds have to do Responsible Service of Alcohol training for each different jurisdiction that they may work in. If we can’t get that right, then God help us.

Luke: That is – I didn’t know that. That is absolutely ridiculous. Is it worse in the city than the bush, Denita, or is it the same everywhere?

Denita: Unfortunately, it’s the same everywhere and this is the difficulty we’re facing. And this is not just about a skill shortage in trades. It’s a skill shortage in terms of civil infrastructure, so the trades in civil infrastructure. We can’t build houses until we’ve got the right infrastructure, the utilities are connected. We can’t get things done if there’s not enough staff in local government to actually approve building in the first place. So it’s through the entire building supply chain, huge opportunities, I mean, we’re not – AI is not going to take over building construction anytime soon. So, to any of your listeners, if you’re thinking of a career change, or you’re looking at what you’re going to do after school, give a trade to go is all we can say, because there’s plenty of work for the long term.

Luke: Great stuff. Thank you for speaking up about this. It’s so very important Denita. I look forward to our next chat.  Thanks Luke, cheers. Denita Wawn, Master Builders Australia, CEO.

Denita: Thanks Luke, cheers. Denita Wawn, Master Builders Australia, CEO.

Luke: Denita Wawn, Master Builders Australia, CEO.

Media contact:
Dee Zegarac
National Director, Media & Public Affairs
0400 493 071

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