Queensland’s commercial construction sector experienced a state of uncertainty in 2020 as a result of the pandemic and the lack of stimulus injected by the QLD Government to support private sector projects.
As a result, widespread redundancies, job losses and pay cuts of 10 to 30 per cent swept across the industry. And many builders’ attention turned away from recruiting new staff to building strategies to reduce costs and ride out the COVID-19 wave—the combination creating a dire landscape for the unemployed.
Fortunately, we saw the light at the end of the tunnel towards the end of 2020 as momentum returned to the sector. And now, as we reach mid-January of the New Year, we’ve had a chance to get our feet back on the ground and our heads around the current landscape. So, we’ve put together a brief rundown on where we think we’ll see job demand in construction this year.
Construction Jobs Demand in 2021
Many of the conversations we’ve had with clients over the last couple of months suggest that tender opportunities for the first half of 2021 are already much greater than they were last year.
Builders can now pick and choose what they want to tender on. But will activity meet expectations? Whether this pipeline of opportunity converts into projects breaking ground over the next 6-months is still uncertain. And while confidence is returning to the market, we believe it will still be a few years before it’s normal again.
The sectors we do think will play an important role in construction job growth this year are education, defence and commercial refurbishment. Further highlighting the importance fiscal support will play in the recovery of Queensland’s commercial construction sector.
Key areas of opportunity:
We expect to see the education sector support many construction jobs throughout 2021. A lot of activity is being seen in small education projects with the Queensland Government investing heavily into state school refurbishments and upgrades. This work hit client side project managers in the latter half of last year and has since moved to head contractor stage.
The QLD Government’s Building Future Schools initiative will also help to escalate construction jobs demand, with the program rolling out 5 new state school builds in Brisbane and the Sunshine Coast this year.
The government is pumping money into defence Australia wide, creating a lot of opportunity for those construction candidates happy to go regional.
As part of the Morrison Government’s $270 billion defence commitment for the next 10 years, a $1 billion investment package will be rolled out in 2021 and 2022 to boost the economy and further support the defence industry. The package will create over 4,000 jobs in the 20/21 and 21/22 FY. We will see a peak in construction jobs demand in areas like the Northern Territory and Central Queensland as a result.
The pandemic brought about significant changes in the attitude of employers towards flexible working environments. This attitude has seen many businesses downsize their tenancy or vacate it altogether.
The flow-on effect of this has been a rise in commercial refurbishments as business owners and commercial property managers refurb their new spaces, look for ways to make their current space compatible with new working arrangements or increase building attractiveness to tenants.
We’re already seeing a lot of job demand in this sector this year and we expect this to continue for the duration of 2021.
Advice to candidates looking to find a construction job this year
As we mentioned earlier, confidence is returning to the market, but we believe a full recovery is still a few years away. We’re still operating in an employer’s market. So, in the meantime, if you’re looking for commercial construction work, you’ll need to be prepared to be flexible in your attitude towards project size, scope and salary.
Smaller project work will be the way forward for the foreseeable future, with the vast majority of the project pipeline we’re seeing (other than the obvious Queen’s Wharf) in your smaller tier 3 and tier 2 space. And a lot of the bigger project pipeline in regional defence. If you’re happy to take a rural stint, we believe there will be a lot of opportunities to cut your teeth on larger projects, but this will be harder to come about in Queensland’s metropolitan areas.
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