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Interview with Mark Allen and Jimmy Bartel, 3AW Melbourne


Event: Interview with Mark Allen and Jimmy Bartel, 3AW Melbourne
Date: 3 July 2024, 8.50am AEST
Speakers: Denita Wawn, CEO Master Builders Australia
Topics: trade shortages; increasing housing supply


Jimmy Bartel, 3AW Melbourne: Mark, we’ve been talking a lot in the last week or so about the housing crisis. How are we going to deal with it? You know how many houses we’re going to build? And they’re all sort of linking together these stories, so we’ve got targets, we have population growth, all sorts of stuff. Denita Wawn, CEO of Master Builders Australia joins us on the line, because there’s been a dramatic decrease in tradies out there. Morning, Denita!

Denita Wawn, CEO Master Builders Australia: Good morning.

Jimmy: We’ve got big goals, big ambitions. But we’ve got no one to build. What are we going to do about this?

Denita: Yeah, there’s a few roadblocks in place at the moment. We’re desperately wanting to build, but not enough people to build, to undertake that task and we’ve seen a decline in apprentice commencement and that is not good at all, given that we need, according to build skills, Australia 90,000 additional tradies this year alone to meet that 1.2 million home target nationally over five years. And it’s really concerning, we had this problem pre-COVID, it was pulled away a little bit with incentives over COVID, but now is massive decline. And we really need to encourage all people to consider a job in the trades, there’s a lot of opportunities for a long period of time.

Jimmy: So, Denita, obviously, you’ve had your eye on this for quite some time. Has it rippled through your industry in the last 12 months, or is this something that you’ve been, you know, maybe aware of that could happen down the track?

Denita: It’s been something that, to be honest, has been going on for the last 10 years. But it’s been exacerbated over the last couple of years. We’ve had ongoing declines in people undertaking apprentices. Decades ago, we made a decision as a country, rightly or wrongly, to promote people into university as opposed to trade. That is now feeling the full effect of people are retiring, looking at alternative employment, and simply not enough people looking at trade as a career. We all know, it’s a fantastic career if you choose to take it up. And of course, we haven’t been good as an industry in encouraging women into the industry, so we’ve been a bit blind to half the working population. So that also is something that we’ve worked on over the last couple of years and madly trying to make up time.

Jimmy: That’s one solution. Any other solutions that we could put into place in the short term to get more tradies?

Denita: Well, we’ve made a number of suggestions to the government. They’ve undertaken an apprentice incentive review, so kudos to them for doing that federally. We’ve said a big answer we think is a better use of group training organisations, particularly those that are run by not-for-profit organisations. That’s where the employer is actually the group training organisation, and they look after the apprentices, they place them into businesses, it’s more expensive, but they get a much, much better outcome. So, we’re looking for an incentive to support those group training organisations to encourage more people into the industry, because they’ll feel more protected through that GTO possibly, as opposed to small businesses really finding it tough to look after employing an apprentice.

Jimmy: So where should prospective tradies be pointed Denita? I mean of all the trades which ones do you need the most?

Denita: Well, all of them, I think is the simple answer. Jobs and Skills Australia have said that we’ve got a shortage in every single trade. So certainly, recommend people going onto career sites. Women, if you’re wanting to look, there’s a Women Building Australia site that has a career part on that site. Look at what interests you, look at what you think you’ll, you enjoy, and then go on to the myriad of apprentice sites available, including through Careers Australia.

Jimmy: Thanks very much for your time. Denita Wawn, CEO of Master Builders Australia.

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

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