The occupational career paths of Australian tradesmen

Melbourne Institute Working Paper No. 14/03

Date: May 2003


Elizabeth Webster
Kelly Jarvis


This paper asks whether the high rates of both unqualified tradespeople and attrition of qualified tradespeople from trade work necessarily represent inefficiencies in the skill acquisition process for the skilled trades. We argue that it is possible that there are three streams of trade workers – a lower stream, which requires the least academic and vocational skills and embodies short and flat experience profiles; a higher stream which demands more academic and vocational expertise and steeper experience profiles and a third, more traditional trade stream which lies in-between. This view is supported by persistent patterns in tradesmen’s career paths. Polarisation into the highest and lowest streams appears to be increasing over time. If valid, these findings suggest that there should be several tiers of training for the trade labour markets.

Download Paper