Australia’s construction industry is booming, offering a wealth of opportunities for backpackers and Working Holiday Visa holders. Working in the construction industry has many advantages in Australia. Whether you’re in the bustling city or the serene countryside, construction jobs are plentiful, diverse, and well-paying. Plus, they might even count towards your Second Year visa. Here’s an updated guide on how to navigate this sector.
Table of Contents
Requirements for Working in Construction
The Essential White Card
What is the White Card?
Construction jobs are regulated in Australia. The White Card ensures that all construction workers are familiar with safety equipment as well as health and security policies. This is THE essential card for working in construction in Australia. Indeed, the White Card is compulsory to work in the building sector. It concerns all staff (supervisors, employees, etc.) who work on a site. The White Card certifies that you have followed a training and that you know and apply the safety rules on construction sites. It is recognised throughout Australia.
How to get the White Card?
To get your White Card, you have to complete a course either online or in the classroom. This can take several hours. If you choose to do the course in class, you will need a full day. The course costs between $40 and $100 depending on the states. There is no exam as such, you will need to answer questions. If you do it online, you will have to take a short video interview and show that you have all the necessary equipment to work on a site (Personal Protective Equipment – see below for more info).
Once obtained, the White Card is recognized in all Australian states and territories and has no validity period. That said, if you do not work in the construction sector for 2 years, you will need to take a course to refresh your knowledge.
Note that to obtain the White card, you will need to create a USI (Unique Student Identifier) because it is an Australian diploma. The process is free and will take you little time (5-10 minutes). All you have to do is go to the specialized USI site of the Australian government. Important detail: you must be in Australia to make your application because you will be asked for a visa number in addition to your identity document.
More information: White Card in Australia – Online Course
Get discounts for your White Card course
Take advantage of special offers to obtain the white card and work in the construction industry.
Equipment – Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
Essentials: Invest in a warning jacket, safety boots, a helmet, goggles, and hearing protection.
Purchasing: Find PPE at stores like Bunnings, Kmart, or second-hand in op-shops or online marketplaces.
Non-native speakers must have a good command of English for safety comprehension and effective communication on site.
Additional Licenses and Certifications
You should know that there is not just one card. Indeed, some trades will require other cards, licenses or even permits… Here is a (non-exhaustive) list of some examples of trades and their prerequisites.
Driving a forklift.
There are two types of forklift so two types of license: class LO and class LF.
Period of validity: 5 years
Cost: between $500 and $600.
Erection and dismantling of scaffolding for construction work.
There are three classes of scaffolding permits: basic, intermediate and advanced.
Traffic Controller License
Ensures traffic of cars (and pedestrians) manually during roadworks, on construction sites, etc.
At least these two skills are required in all Australian states: Control traffic with stop-slow bat (RIIWHS205E) and Implement traffic management plans (RIIWHS302E).
Period of validity: 3 years
Cost: between $200 and $500.
Materials platform hoist
Operate a construction hoist to allow materials or goods to be lifted.
There are three types of lifting devices that require a license.
Period of validity: 1 year.
Job Opportunities and Salaries
Minimum Wage and Employment Terms
No matter what job you will be doing in construction, a minimum wage is applicable. Indeed, in Australia, most employees are covered by a modern award. These contain the minimum wage, as well as other terms and conditions, for employees in particular industries and occupations. For construction jobs, the Building and construction General On site Award (MA 000020) applies. When you are hired, remember to ask your employer under what status you are employed. You can be hired on a casual, daily or weekly hire basis.
Your wage will be different depending on your status. For example, casual employees will be paid a casual loading (a higher pay rate for being a casual employee). This is because casuals don’t get paid days off, notice of termination or redundancy pay. To give you an idea of the differences in hourly rates, during the week, the minimum wage (level 1 – without experience in the field), in casual you will get the minimum wage + 25% per hour compared to a person hired weekly.
If you are after making good money, you may want to consider working at night or on weekends, as hourly wages are much higher then (50% more sometimes). Note that if you have a specific skill or training in construction, you will probably depend on another award, with different hourly rates (eg plumber, electrician).
To calculate your minimum wage, you can use this tool from FairWork.
Type of jobs in construction
Labourer (unskilled labour)
Your role is to be available to perform various manual tasks on site. You have to make sure that all craftsmen have got what they need on site. For example, you carry cement bags, bricks, wooden boards, or tools or you fill and carry buckets with water. You will probably also use a few tools such as the jackhammer and do simple tasks, such as isolating. The advantage is that you can make contacts with everyone involved. The disadvantage is that it is a physical work. The wages can be between 25 and 45 AUD per hour, depending on your experience and the level of difficulty of the job (allow $25 to $30 at the start and without experience).
This includes picking up garbage, sweeping, cleaning the construction site and packing hazardous waste and garbage in bags. The Cleaner is responsible for preventing the build-up of dust harmful to lungs on the job site, thus ensuring good working conditions. The advantage is that the physical work is less hard. The disadvantage, however, is that you must always wear a mask to prevent the inhalation of dust. The pay is the same as a labourer’s. At very small construction sites, you can do both jobs at once.
The traffic controller sways traffic signs, directs the traffic, and accompanies visitors or passers-by through the construction site. It also it ensures the safety of pedestrians. This is a position that requires a traffic control license. This construction job employs most women because no physical strength is needed and you also get paid well. In addition, companies that want to increase the proportion of women in their workforce prefer women for this position. The advantage is that you don’t have to do any physical work. The disadvantage is that you get bored very quickly and you have to stand around all day, mostly in the sun. Traffic controller are paid better than other unskilled backpackers in the construction industry: between AUD 31 (without experience) and 45 per hour (for experienced workers).
Although this profession isn’t the highest paying (earning $23 to $26 per hour), a house painter doesn’t require any specific physical condition or training to start. You can progress by taking courses to earn higher pay. Tasks include surface preparation, wall washing, exterior and interior building painting. The tasks can be diverse but remain tedious if you only tackle large surfaces.
Electricians, carpenters, plumbers, pavers or other skilled craftsmen usually have high salaries. Contact the company directly, tell them about your qualifications and experience and ask for at least AUD 30-35 per hour.
Finding a Job in Construction
Gumtree is a good website to start with. Post a local ad in the “Jobs” category and indicate that you are looking for a construction job. Mention all your strengths (good English skills, fitness, white card, previous experiences, etc.). Your experience in the construction industry should be in the title of the ad. Then check every day if any new job offers have come up.
The registration process is usually free and fast, either online or in person. For that, you need your passport, your TFN and the White Card. Some jobs require experience, others specialise in inexperienced workers.
Some agencies are present all over the country (Hays for example). You can also try with Labor Solutions Australia or Skill Hire and FT Workforce (agencies in Sydney and Melbourne).
Word of Mouth
Word of mouth is still the best method. Ask everyone you know in Australia if they have any contacts in construction. Don’t hesitate to talk to the people in your hostel who work in the construction industry. And, as some Australians tend to say, “the best way to find a job is to go to the pub”.
Social networks like Facebook can be a great option to find a job. Join groups such as “Backpackers in Sydney”, “Australia backpackers jobs”, “construction jobs in Australia”. There are constantly new job offers. But you have to be quick and check the groups every day to see if something new has popped up. Positions are quickly filled.
Working in construction on a Working Holiday Visa
Can I do all the jobs in this sector?
If you want to work in the construction industry during your WHV, it is entirely possible. However, you will need to obtain the White Card (see start of article).
In any case, you’ll need to speak a minimum of English to understand the safety instructions and rules applied on site. The building trades are open to both men and women. There are many women working as traffic controllers in Australia.
If you’re aiming for a particular job, then you’ll probably need to take a training course, such as forklift driver or traffic controller.
In any case, you should know that all construction jobs are open to you. Of course, this will depend on your training and previous experience. For example, you won’t be able to apply for a job as an electrician if you haven’t had any training in this field – logical!
Renewing your Working Holiday Visa
You should know that if you are on a WHV (subclasses 417 & 462) and you decide to work in the construction industry, your working days will count towards renewing your visa (2nd and 3rd year). However, be careful, as not all construction jobs are eligible for renewal. Here is the list of eligible sectors (taken from the immigration website):
- Residential building construction
- Non-residential building construction
- Heavy and civil engineering construction
- Land development and site preparation services
- Building structure services
- Building installation services
- Building completion services
- Other construction services
For your days to count, make sure that the postcode where you work is eligible. Please note that for 462 visa holders, construction work is eligible if done in northern Australia and other specified areas of regional Australia.
To read as well: Eligible jobs for your second and third visa
Trades in demand in the construction industry
Australia relies on skilled foreign workers in many trades. This is particularly true in the construction sector. Several trades are therefore on the lists for long-term immigration.
These include the Medium and Long-term Strategic Skills List (MLTSSL), the Short-term Skilled Occupation List (STSOL), the Regional Occupation List (ROL) or the Regional Sponsored Migration Scheme (RSMS) ROL List.
So if you want to immigrate to Australia, here are the occupations that could qualify you for a long-term visa in the construction sector.
|In demand qualifications
|Wall and floor tiler
|Carpenter – Joiner
|331212 – 331211
|Painting trades worker
Testimonials from backpackers
The construction industry in Australia offers a dynamic and rewarding environment for young backpackers. With good pay, diverse job roles, and the potential for visa extension, it’s an excellent sector to explore during your stay Down Under. Remember to stay updated on safety regulations and training requirements to make the most of your construction career in Australia.