I started with nudge a little over a year ago. With my performance review looming I started to reflect on the year that flew by. I ended up looking at the data we had kept from the Construction Training Fund Industry Snapshots as a way to show the story for how training has changed over the year.

Back in May things weren’t looking good. There was a 13% drop in Certificate III trainee numbers over the year from May to May and a huge 25% drop from the peak in November. The training for Civil Construction Supervisors data only begins in September of last year so its drop was a more gradual 10%.


I sat down and started to write a blog post called “Where have all the trainees gone?” I’m sure it was going to be filled with tough questions lamenting the cyclical nature of the civil industry and the self-destructive impact it has on the workforce and young people.

But I paused.

Maybe I should wait for the next snapshot. I knew it would come out soon and I thought things would get worse and I could make my call to action stronger.  I’ve seen the prices coming on tenders.  I’ve spoken with contractors and local governments doing it tough and struggling to keep their existing skilled staff.

The last thing I expected was to see was a big upturn in the number of entry level trainees.


This increase in Certificate III trainees is almost entirely driven by a 34% increase in the general civil construction certificate III.


There are always going to be a multitude of factors that contribute to a change such as this, but one major one must be the commencement of projects with the new Government Building Training Policy in effect.

With a government mandated goal training rate of 11.5% and a civil industry training rate that I’ve heard estimated at 2% to 8% something always had to budge. The fact that supervisors in training decreased by 17% in the last reporting cycle (May-June) would support the view that in the short term it looks as if companies have responded to the training requirement by putting on entry level workers.

Now whatever headaches arise in the medium term once this cycle of trainees are skilled and no longer contributing to a company’s training rate is a legitimate concern, but surely this is a positive sign. In a market where prices are squeezed low and the natural response is to utilise the highly skilled people available we are seeing a balance. A balance that means there won’t be a downturn generation skill gap the next time the market is firing.

Bonus Graph:


I don’t know how to explain the dramatic increase in female trainees (+132%) and a worrying decrease in the number of Aboriginal trainees (-20%).

I attended the launch of the Civil Contractors Federation and Landcorp Aboriginal Engagement Guide this week. I think there were more people in the room than there currently are Aboriginal men and women going through civil traineeships.  Is this because business sees this as a too hard basket in downtimes or have businesses lost focus on how having a diverse workforce can impact them positively?

I’d love to hear from the industry people we’ve got on this mailing list.

Questions for the reader:

  • Have a missed the mark? Is this increase caused by something else?
  • Is the Government Building Training Policy causing problems that I’m not seeing?
  • What do you think we are going to see in the rest of the year?
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