2024 is shaping up to be another dynamic year for Australia’s commercial construction, civil infrastructure and engineering sectors. The CEO of Infrastructure Australia has described it as “a super-normal amount of growth”, saying the industry is planning to deliver $230 billion in major public infrastructure, 1.2 million new homes and four times the investment in clean energy infrastructure over the next five years.
The government is playing a crucial role, remaining committed to its 10-year $120 billion infrastructure pipeline, which will support the future stability and growth of Australia’s commercial construction, civil infrastructure and engineering industries.
While these sectors will continue facing challenges in 2024, the outlook remains cautiously optimistic, with many exciting opportunities on the horizon.
In this evolving landscape, smart recruitment is imperative. Part of a winning strategy includes understanding the key hiring trends for 2024, helping you stay ahead of the ball, rather than being behind it.
Here is your guide to some of these important recruitment trends for commercial construction, civil infrastructure and engineering in Australia to help inform your hiring decisions in 2024.
Headline Hiring Trends for 2024
The government’s labour market insights show the Australian construction sector grew by 12.4% over the past year, creating a total of 146,200 construction jobs, ensuring the industry retains its place as the largest employing sector in Australia. Construction is projected to grow almost 6% by 2026, taking out the fifth spot on the list of the highest-growth industries.
The civil engineering sector is also looking at considerable growth next year at a healthy 13.4%, with almost 30% of engineers employed by the construction sector. This growth isn’t surprising considering the amount of fiscal stimulus put into transport infrastructure, renewable energies and defence.
The latest Wage Price Index (WPI) shows a big movement in Australian construction wages, with a 4.3% jump this year.
Many factors have led to this boost, from skills shortages to inflationary pressures, all of which have produced ripe conditions for employees to negotiate their salaries. This resulted in a record number of salary increases this year, including a 5.75% bump to the adult minimum award wage.
While the WPI is a consistent measure of wage growth, advertised salary rates provide useful insights into the current market.
SEEK advertised salaries grew faster than the WPI this year at 4.6%. State by state, South Australia led with a 5.4% increase in advertised salaries, Queensland, Western Australia and Tasmania next at 5.0%, with NSW and Victoria at 4.4% and 4.0%.
Delving into specific industries we recruit for, here are the rises they saw this year:
· Trades and Services - 5.2%
· Design and Architecture - 5.0%
· Engineering - 4.7%
· Construction - 3.5%
Mercer forecasts construction and engineering jobs will see a further 5.5% pay rise in 2024.
Major Talent Shortages Will Persist
If you’re looking to fill one construction job or many, 2024 will continue to be a challenge.
According to Infrastructure Australia's annual market capacity report, there are just 177,000 professionals in the workforce, despite there being enough demand for the equivalent of 405,000.
With an abundance of mega-scale infrastructure projects across our major cities, these locales will face the highest numbers of workforce shortages, although regional areas will feel the impact, too.
According to an Engineer’s Australia report, engineering vacancies grew by 80% nationally compared to 42% for all averaged Australian job vacancies from 2020 to 2022. Those most in demand are Civil Engineers, followed by Industrial, Mechanical and Production Engineers.
From our perspective at Fetch Recruitment, employers may want to consider broadening their talent search parameters. This includes tapping into migrant engineers here in Australia who traditionally have trouble securing employment based on their experience.
Widening the net can also include forging partnerships with educational institutions, like secondary schools, to encourage the younger generation to consider an engineering career.
Another important strategy is engaging with a built environment recruitment specialist to utilise their pool of pre-qualified candidates, as well as leaning on their broader industry networks to reach out to passive talent.
The Growing Use of AI
This year saw many engineering and construction companies progressively integrate digital technologies, specifically generative AI, to enhance processes and efficiency in areas such as project design, scheduling and cost management.
On the recruitment front, both in-house and agency recruitment teams have recognised the value AI offers in streamlining hiring processes, resulting in significant time and cost savings for their hiring managers and clients, not to mention better hiring outcomes.
Regardless of your organisation's position on AI, it’s a technology that is here to stay and will rapidly evolve to meet a wider range of business needs.
A Shift to Skills-Based Hiring
2023 saw many hiring managers turn to skills-based hiring over traditional methods. This involves evaluating candidates on the range of their skills, abilities and competencies, rather than focusing only on their education and experience.
Skills-based hiring can help companies build a high-calibre workforce that is both skilled and diverse, helping organisations meet their diversity and inclusion targets.
If you choose to use this approach, it’s important to adjust your job ads, interview questions and application screening accordingly. Your recruiter can assist with this.
More Focus on Talent Retention and Internal Mobility
As a response to workforce shortages, next year will see a greater emphasis on nurturing internal talent and talent retention within built environment companies. And with the competition to attract new hires showing no sign of abating, this is certainly a smart strategic shift to consider.
Such a shift might encompass reskilling and upskilling existing staff, prioritising internal mobility, as well as developing individualised career pathways for each employee.
Procuring a Future-Ready Talent Reserve
Engaging contractors for projects will remain a key hiring strategy in the face of employee shortages, and it’s a practice that will gain even more momentum in 2024 across the construction and engineering sectors.
The flexibility to scale your workforce on demand is a key benefit of having a readily available contractor pool. Establishing a relationship with a reputable recruiter, one who has a cache of carefully vetted and reliable professionals, is a major competitive advantage.
The major hiring trends 2024 has to offer do present some challenges, but also great opportunities. These trends underpin the importance of a versatile recruitment strategy, one that balances data-led decision making with the human touch, to secure the best construction and engineering talent.
If you'd like an expert companion in navigating the recruitment terrain, our specialists at Fetch Recruitment can help. Whether it’s assistance with filling open roles, or further insights into the engineering and construction job market, we’d love to become your valued professional partner.