I read an article out of the US this week bemoaning the fact that there’s a trade skills shortage due to the pressure put on young people in recent years to go to university after high school and train for a professional career, regardless of aptitude and interest. It sounded in many ways like a problem we have in Australia.
Sure, we know that Australia’s current skills shortage is partly due to short term increases in building activity over the past 12 months – we’ve had national residential commencements increase by more than 41% over the past three years, which has put pressure on bricklayer supply.
We also know many bricklayers left the trade during the downturn in 2012 and did not return to the trade, due to their age and the physical nature of the trade. However, the issue of university being glamourized as a superior study and career choice over the trades, has taken its toll in Australia too.
Readers of this blog will know that ABBTF constantly extols the benefits of taking on a contemporary bricklaying apprenticeship (vastly different to 25 years ago) as a means of entry to the Construction trades and to business ownership. But we need more parents, career advisors, TAFE teachers and employers to spread the word that it’s a sound decision for the right person. There are around 200 bricklaying apprenticeships on offer around Australia at the present time.
The author of the US article* Kseniya Taranyuk writes that teens are told by their parents to get to university at all cost. As a result, universities are now full of kids who realise they’re not up to the more demanding courses, so they’re doing lower level one’s like social sciences and hospitality, creating an oversupply of these less rigorous degrees and limited job vacancies. And the flipside is that we have a shortage of qualified tradespeople because they were dissuaded from taking on a skilled trade.
To help understand the trade skills shortage in the US, the Dept of Education commissioned the OECD to produce a new international Survey of Adult Skills**. Its broad aim is to help all countries secure better skills policies by measuring the basic skills of adults in 24 countries and demonstrating how these skills relate to economic and social outcomes. There are some very interesting tables comparing Australian skills with other countries.
The author concludes that besides the very necessary increased focus on understanding the issues and skills, we also need to celebrate skilled workers, making these careers truly viable career options. Hear, Hear to that!
*Source: The Lariat is the official student-run newspaper for Saddleback College in Mission Viejo, California, USA. lariatnews.com/opinion October 28, 2015