Fee-free construction qualifications open to all as state’s skills shortage continues

Paul Eyers
Paul Eyers
The Queensland Government's announcement of making fee-free construction sector qualifications open to people of all ages is designed to help solve the long-running skills shortage in the state.

You’re never too old to become a tradie; at least, that’s what the Queensland Government now says. 

Free trade TAFE courses will now be offered to aspiring tradies of any age as the Queensland government desperately tries to fill its skilled worker sinkhole. 

On Monday 1 July, the state kicked off the new financial year by making a range of cost-free construction apprenticeships – including courses in carpentry, bricklaying, plumbing, and electrotechnology with TAFE or CQ University – available to mature-age students.

The updated offer replaces the previous age-based barrier on Queensland’s fee-free apprenticeship TAFE scheme for under 25s as the state looks to rebuild its lagging tradie numbers. 

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Queensland is expected to bear the brunt of Australia’s imminent 90,000 tradie shortfall as the state struggles to find the skilled workers required for its 2032 Olympics construction and $107 billion worth of infrastructure projects, such as Brisbane’s Cross River Rail.  

That is not forgetting those tradies needed to tackle the state’s ongoing housing crisis, with an ambitious housing target of 1,000,000 new homes and 53,500 new social homes by 2046.

Minister for Training and Skills Development Lance McCallum says the scheme is a great opportunity for Queenslanders to upskill or transition into high-paying trade jobs.

“Progressive coal royalties mean the cost of living shouldn’t get in the way of any Queenslander getting into the high paid hi-vis jobs created by our Big Build,” he says.

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The changes, set to be formally announced on 4 July, follows the release of Oxford Economics Australia data warning the Queensland government must fix its excessive labour shortages or face forking out an additional $200m for every infrastructure project worth over $1bn once construction inflation begins to rise. 

Fee-free TAFE courses available now:

• Certificate III in Bricklaying and Blocklaying

• Certificate III in Carpentry

• Certificate III in Construction Waterproofing

• Certificate III in Plumbing

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• Certificate III in Gas Fitting

• Certificate III in Glass and Glazing

• Certificate III in Electrotechnology Electrician and;

• Certificate III in Painting and Decorating

Some qualifications will require apprentices to pay for additional equipment, such as the cost of a uniform, PPE, and learning resources. 

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However, first-year apprentices will also be eligible for a $1000 tool rebate. 

Those who started the first year of a construction, plumbing, or electrical apprenticeship after 1 January may be eligible for a rebate of up to $1,000 to cover the cost of tools purchased for the apprenticeship.

Under the Free Tools for First Years program, $4 million is available, and claims will be open until the funds are exhausted.

However, apprentices can only claim once per person even if they do not utilise the entire $1000 rebate. 

Mature-age students will also be eligible for the rebate program while it is on offer. 

A solid foundation for aspiring tradies

Queensland Housing Minister Meaghan Scanlon says expanding the free TAFE courses to any ages would hopefully boost stocks by an additional 13,000 tradies over the extended two-year funding period.

“For the first time, construction apprenticeships are free to Queenslanders of all ages,” she says.

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“We don’t just want more Queenslanders to take up a good career in construction, we need them so we can build more homes for Queenslanders.”

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Paul Eyers has worked as a journalist for a range of media publishers including News Corp and Network Ten. He has also worked outside of Australia, including time spent with ABS-CBN in the Philippines. His diverse experiences and unique journey have equipped him with a singular perspective on the world.