The national industry skills shortage is hitting Tasmania hard with the latest reports suggesting the state’s heritage-listed architecture is falling into disarray with a lack of skilled workers to repair it.
Tasmania is home to one of Australia’s most extensive collections of heritage-listed buildings. Some 5,500 of the national treasures are listed there making up 40 per cent of the historic buildings Australia-wide. Shockingly, 40 per cent of these are at risk of being left beyond repair due to the fact that the state’s industry is not being trained in the skills to work on buildings of this historic nature.
However, the Tasmanian industry is taking action against this problem. The Tasmanian Building and Construction Industry Training Board is commissioning research into the dying industry practices that are needed in the repair and maintenance of heritage buildings. These skills include working with traditional stonework and plastering.
Board chairman David Hudson has stated that Tasmania is but one of many Australian regions facing this same issue – an issue that will need to be dealt with sooner rather than later.
“If we actually add in the properties that aren’t registered, I’d suggest that Tasmania probably has even a larger proportion than that,” he says. “All of those are obviously deteriorating over time, and if we get to a stage where the skills needed to repair and remediate these buildings aren’t available then, yes, they are all at risk.”
An aging generation of skilled workers is becoming a problematic reality for the industry. Many are pushing now for the education and passing on of skills to younger tradespeople while there are still industry members with these skills available to pass along their knowledge.
“We need to try to make sure that maybe there’s some more formal training available for the younger tradesmen and women,” says researcher Andrew Jones. “If we don’t act now, I think in 10, 15 years’ time we’ll have a situation where we no longer have highly skilled specialist heritage practitioners available to do work on properties.”
With such a timely issue on the hands of both the Tasmanian and national industry, dramatic action needs to be implemented sooner rather than later if the protection of some of this country’s most iconic and historic architecture is to be maintained.