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Tradie jobs abound in Adelaide but there’s no one to fill them

A steel tradesman on a worksite. Courtesy: David Swift

Employers across Adelaide are struggling to fill a glut of trades jobs and are instead being forced to look overseas.

Job recruitment firms have revealed there is an abundance of trades jobs available in Adelaide, some of which go for months without a single applicant while young people pursue university and experienced workers chase lucrative mining jobs.

Maxima business development consultant Rod McInnes, who looks after the northern and north western suburbs, told The Advertiser his typically manufacturing-heavy region was struggling to attract workers.

He knew of one western suburbs business that had to advertise overseas for a panel beater after not a single South Australian applied for the job.

“Another company wanted forklift technicians … and they said they could have six or eight jobs in SA if I could give them the workers,” Mr McInnes said.

“A lot of the younger guys and girls aren’t wanting to get their hands dirty because they’re going into high tech careers or sitting at a desk.”

He said there was a shortage of applications for jobs such as welders, carpenters and electricians.

He recently emailed his database to offer a maritime cadetship in Port Adelaide — where ship building is set to become a major employer — and received only one response.

“It’s the skills,” Mr McInnes said.

“One employer in the defence area said to me, ‘Rod, the people we need should have been in training five years ago’.”

Southern Cross Workforce director Mike Racher said it was becoming “more and more difficult” to find skilled local workers and expected it to get worse as mining and defence grew.

He believed experienced workers, such as those who had left the ASC as part of rolling job losses, were chasing money in mining outside of Adelaide and young people had not been trained to take their place.

Right now the demands are boilermakers and welders because there’s a lot of structural steel being done at the moment,” Mr Racher said.

“Companies have to look overseas to get those skills. You can only keep looking so long in the local market because eventually you need somebody in that spot.

“These days the youngsters are more interested in getting a job in the computer age as opposed to getting their hands dirty and greasy. They don’t want sparks going on around them or ducking their head in the bonnet of an engine.”

Master Builders Association of SA chief executive Ian Markos said the State Government needed to encourage more students to look at a labour or trade pathway by connecting them with workers.

He proposed showing students through school construction sites to meet tradesmen and ask questions about jobs.

Industry and Skills Minister David Pisoni said the government was working towards creating more skilled young people.

“With recent reports of South Australian businesses struggling to fill jobs, we’re very keen to promote the opportunities for young South Australians that an apprenticeship or traineeship can deliver,” Mr Pisoni said.

“The Marshall Government’s Skilling South Australia initiative to create 20,800 additional apprenticeships and traineeships over four years is geared towards addressing this situation where the jobs are there but skills gaps in the workforce need filling.”