May 16, 2022
Kingaroy businesswoman Michelle Hansen has been looking since January to expand her team, with absolutely no luck … a situation which has her worried, but not just for her business.
Michelle and her husband Clinton own Hansen’s Kitchens, a cabinetmaking business situated on the outskirts of Kingaroy.
The couple has five employees and have been looking for a qualified cabinetmaker.
“We have advertised locally and in Brisbane, Toowoomba and the Sunshine Coast,” Michelle said.
“We are lucky that we have a really good team but with the amount of work coming in we have the capacity to grow but we can’t because we can’t get the people.”
They’ve now given up and are seeking “the next option”, a mature-age apprentice.
And Michelle hopes that person is already living somewhere in the South Burnett as potential employees also have to find accommodation – something which is becoming very difficult in Kingaroy.
“If we don’t have people, we don’t have a business,” she said.
But it’s not just her employment issue which has Michelle worried, it’s all the other issues that seem to be hitting the building industry across Queensland at the moment.
As well as the lack of tradespeople, there’s a lack of materials – or, a big wait on deliveries – which has been affecting local projects.
“It’s just so hard to manage when the price of materials is constantly moving upwards. Trades are contracting to do a job but the prices are changing so quickly,” Michelle said.
In cabinet-making, Michelle has noticed that items such as hinges, drawer runners and timber products are in short supply.
“There’s so much demand it’s taking a lot longer to get these products,” Michelle said.
“We are always communicating with customers, keeping them in the loop which is all what we can do. Most of our clients are very understanding.”
It’s this “perfect storm” of lack of qualified staff, material delays and rising prices that has Michelle worried about the future of all construction trades.
For example, there is a shortage of stone masons to cut the bench tops used in her business.
And Michelle and Clinton’s experience with building their own home is a good example. After two years, they have the frame up and that’s it.
“I believe construction is a dying trade. It’s not just builders, it’s plumbers, electricians, plasterers, bricklayers …” Michelle said.
“It’s really across the board. I hear the same thing from everyone in construction.
“You can’t get a tiler here any more, or even bricklayers.”
She lays some of the blame at the fact that trade apprenticeships don’t have the “prestige” attached to them that going to university does.
“There’s such a push for students to get an ATAR to go to uni. Going to TAFE is considered second best but that’s not the case!” Michelle said.
“They still have to do four years of training before they are actually qualified. They’ve got to be smart.
“What are we going to do when Australia runs out of qualified tradespeople? Who’s going to train the next generation? We’ve got to have houses …”
So Hansen’s Kitchens are now looking for one – or maybe two – mature people who are looking for a career change.
“They can be 21 or they can be 40. So long as they have life experience and would like to learn a new skill,” Michelle said.