The Australian Brick and Blocklaying Training Foundation (ABBTF) have endorsed the Housing Industry Association's (HIA) call for young people to be encouraged to start and finish a trade.

The Housing Industry Association - Austral Bricks Trades Report for the March quarter 2010 shows that the headline Trade Availability Index has reached its lowest level since September 2008.

Dr Harley Dale, The HIA's chief economist, explained that in the March quarter there was a shortage of labour in ten out of thirteen skilled trades, with the shortage growing in a majority of instances.

Geoff Noble, ABBTF's general manager, said that the HIA - Austral Bricks Trades Report offers a timely warning to state and federal governments, industry organisations, employers and training organisations that more should to be done to attract young people to trade careers.

"We know from our own experiences and extensive research that the nation’s 26,000 bricklayers and blocklayers are an ageing population – 24 per cent are over 50 and 57 per cent are over 40,” said Geoff.

He explained that this is why the employment of bricklaying apprentices is subsidised with $6,000 by the ABBTF. This is topped up by a further $4,000 from the Federal Government. Some states have further subsidies available. The ABBTF has also introduced a special $2,000 bonus for employers in NSW and Queensland who take on a brick or blocklaying apprentice by 30 June 2010.

"Our subsidies are funded by a levy on bricks and blocks which is matched by the major brick and block manufacturers so there is a real commitment to recruit more bricklayers. We undertake many promotional activities designed to attract school leavers to bricklaying and we are having success in many areas.

"But it is must be a priority with all those in the decision making process if we are to avoid a big problem of skill shortages in the future. Our state managers are out on sites talking to bricklaying employers who can improve their productivity by taking on apprentices.

"It is a trade that can lead to a wonderful career in the construction industry, we just need to get the message out there to all the stakeholders. There some wonderful success stories of people who have started out as a bricklayer and gone right to the top of the industry," said Geoff.