SEEK Employment Trends: industry spotlight on construction

Construction work across Australia may have experienced a mild contraction in October, but no one told the employment market. SEEK job ads for the construction industry continued their year-on-year rise and experts say additional infrastructure spending looks set to increase the demand for talent.

Despite the overall contraction in construction work across the country in October, research from the Australian Industry Group shows no impact to employment in the sector during this time. The latest data from SEEK Employment Trends shows that job ads for the construction industry grew by 13% year-on-year in October and the average advertised salary was $106,784.

James Iddon, Senior Recruitment Consultant at Aerotek, says that while there are still plenty of talented candidates in the market, employers may soon need to broaden their talent criteria. “Employers on road projects, for example, are still inclined to look for candidates with roads experience, but I think we may soon reach a level of demand where they will be looking for more transferable skills and they will be more inclined to take on candidates who have rail experience, for example, to work on road projects.”

A focus on health and safety

Health and safety is firmly on the agenda for employers in the construction industry. Job ads for health, safety and environment roles led the way in October, rising by 37% year-on-year to October. “If you’re bidding for government work in particular, there is a huge expectation that you can implement and manage projects with robust health and safety systems and processes in place,” explains Iddon.

Siobhan Savage, Group Talent and Mobility Executive at multinational engineering and construction firm WSP | Parsons Brinckerhoff Asia Pacific, welcomes a greater focus on health and safety roles. “I think the more that companies take it seriously, the more opportunities it will create for roles in the industry. Safety is non-negotiable in all of our processes.”

Health and safety is a core pillar of WSP | Parsons Brinckerhoff. Savage explains that every meeting within the business is opened with a ‘safety moment’. “It can be about anything related to safety – not just in your work life but in your personal life,” she says. “It’s about bringing safety awareness to everyone around you.”

WSP | Parsons Brinckerhoff employs approximately 34,000 people across the globe and 2,000 of those are based in Australia and New Zealand. It recently launched a global campaign called ‘Two Steps Ahead’, which aims to attract the best talent to the business.

Savage explains that while technical skills are essential, the company also places an emphasis on innovative thinking. “We want to attract entrepreneurial people who don't just go in and do the job,” she says. ‘We want to employ people who push it a little bit and think outside the box and come up with innovative solutions for our clients. We have many people with really amazing ideas and we end up winning a lot of work when they come up with something left of field.”

Construction job ads on the rise

While health and safety was a high priority for construction employers in October, almost all roles increased year-on-year. Plant and machinery operators saw an increase of 33% while quality assurance and control roles were down by 5%. Meanwhile, job ads for contract management roles rose by 30%, foreperson/supervisor roles were up by 12% and job ads for projects managers experienced a lift of 6%. “Project managers would be in the top three areas of skill shortage for us,” says Savage.

Iddon notes that an increase in job ads for planning and scheduling roles indicates the volume of construction jobs in early development, however he is surprised that the growth was only 5% and says employers should expect an increased need for these roles in the months ahead. “There are a lot of large and complex infrastructure projects in early development stage, so I think we’ll see busy times ahead for planning and scheduling roles,” he says. “Sometimes they are rolled into project management jobs, so that may explain the greater increase in ads for those jobs.”

Planning for the future

Savage expects demand for construction talent to remain strong, particularly across the infrastructure sector. “We're already thinking about two years ahead because we know what's about to hit us,” she says.

Savage adds that a solutions-driven attitude is high on the list of requirements at WSP | Parsons Brinckerhoff. “We obviously respect and want the technical expertise but for us it's a bit more than that. We want people that can go into clients and be solutions driven.”

Major infrastructure projects in cities such as Melbourne and Sydney will continue to fuel demand, says Iddon. “There are projects, such as NorthConnex and WestConnex in Sydney, that are still in early development stage and haven’t gone into full swing from a construction perspective,” he says. “I think we’ll continue to see an upward trend in demand.”
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