Could there be an opportunity for expats in the Australian construction sector?

Could there be an opportunity for expats in the Australian construction sector?​

There is no doubt that the star of the Australian economy over the last 10 years or so has been the mining and natural resource industry. We have seen the creation or literally hundreds of thousands of new jobs with many offering relatively high salaries because of an acute skills shortage. There are signs that this growth in employment opportunities across the mining industry in particular is starting to slow down, so does this mean that expats have less opportunities in Australia?

For those looking to move to Australia there may well be growing opportunities in the construction and property sector which has to all intents and purposes been through a recession over the last few years. Even though the headline figures from the Australian economy show that it did not dip into recession, even after the US mortgage crisis, this is perhaps not the overall picture. Experts believe that the construction and property sectors in Australia have been in recession although there are signs that they are now about to enter a new growth period.

What does this mean for employment opportunities in property and construction?

One issue which became very apparent when the mining industry began to grow and the property and construction sectors began to contract was the very different opportunities regarding employment. We saw a number of skilled employees from the construction sector moving over to the mining industry where there were further opportunities and attractive financial packages on offer.

Initially this left the construction sector short of skilled workers but as the industry was contracting there was no real impact upon output going forward. However, the signs are today that the construction sector is starting to pick up, there could be up to 45,000 new jobs created in the next three years but where are the skills?
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Another skills shortage crisis

Just when the Australian government believed that it had a handle on the skills shortage crisis, attacking abuse of the 457 visa, it seems that another skills shortage crisis is on the way. There is strong evidence of a significant and growing skills shortage in the construction sector and with salaries unable to compete with those from the mining industry it will be difficult to tempt back those who left construction and mining in years gone by.

This shortage of specific skills and experiences could have a material impact upon the short to medium term performance of the Australian economy with particular emphasis on the property and construction sectors. If, as expected, the mining industry does start to slow then it would be up to the likes of the property and construction sectors to lead the economy in the short to medium term. Would they be able to do so with a lack of specific skills and experience?

Conclusion

It seems almost inevitable that there will be significant job opportunities for expats, with skills and experience in short supply across the construction industry. This will likely lead to more criticism of the Australian government which has to all intents and purposes failed to really address the ongoing issue of skill shortages across the Australian economy. We have seen short-term efforts to fill the gaps but we now need to see long-term investment in training and an increase in training budgets.

Until the government of Australia put in place a significant and long-term training programme there is every chance we will experience these skills shortages and shifting of employees time and time again in the future.