AMWU Queensland has predicted a disastrous skills shortage in the next five years unless the construction sector starts pulling its weight and trains more apprentices.
On Monday, AMWU state secretary Andrew Dettmer said construction apprenticeships dropped 30 per cent from 2007 to 2010 and the manufacturing industry was shouldering the burden of training young Queenslanders.
Figures obtained from the Queensland Department of Education and Training show that the construction sector registered only 4,326 new apprenticeships in 2010 – down from a high of 6,291 in 2007.
In comparison, manufacturing registered 3,713 new apprenticeships in 2010, a relatively modest decrease from 4,543 in 2007.
However, Mr Dettmer said manufacturing workers were routinely lured to the construction industry with higher wages.
"After spending four years guiding a worker through their apprenticeship, some manufacturing employers feel betrayed when that worker leaves to pursue the larger salaries that construction can offer,'' Mr Dettmer said.
"But if there are enough apprentices and tradespeople going round, that can be minimised.''
Mr Dettmer said the AMWU last year tabled a proposal to key construction industry figures, asking the industry to shoulder its share of the training of young Queenslanders.
"Sadly, we have seen little response from the sector so far.
"We're expecting to see demand for over 25,000 extra skilled tradespeople to handle major project infrastructure in Queensland in the near future, but we won’t be able to meet this demand if the construction sector does not train more apprentices,” he said.