TASMANIA could be heading for a skills shortage, particularly in the construction industry if work does not pick up and more recently qualified builders continue to leave the state.
According to the Skills Institute Annual Report, over the past five years there has been a decline in the number of people starting and actively doing apprenticeships across all industries.
Master Builders Association of Tasmania executive director Michael Kerschbaum said yesterday the construction industry had trained quite a number in the past four to six years but because work had dried up in the state, many had left.
``Often the industry is very cyclical - it takes four years to train up an apprentice, but then they have to find work and if there's no work in the state, they don't stay,'' Mr Kerschbaum said.
``We've trained a lot of apprentices but a lot have left the state, especially in the last couple years.
``We'll see the work eventually pick up in demand but we'll find that the labourers won't be here.''
He expects to see work in the South pick up in the next six to 12 months but is predicting that the North and North-West will be pretty dismal for at least another 12 months, with no large projects on the horizon.
The largest employer of apprentices Fairbrother chief executive Craig Edmunds said they had cut the number of apprenticeships they offered from 64 three years ago to just 28 this year.
``The lack of work opportunities, the economy and the cost of employment were the biggest factors for the decline,'' Mr Edmunds said.
``Employers need that confidence to take an apprentice on for four years, if they don't have that confidence then they're not going to take someone on,'' Mr Edmunds said.
Industry concerns are backed by the annual report released last week, with the construction sector experiencing a decline of just over 200 apprentices starting apprenticeships in 2010, from 377 to 168.
Those actively doing a construction apprenticeship has declined since 2009 from 1238 to 766 this year.
Over all industries the number of starting apprentices from 2009 to 2013 has dropped from 1711 to 1207 and those actively undertaking apprenticeships for the same period has declined from 6584 to 4957.