Trades & Services

If you’re after a hands-on career filled with tonnes of opportunities to get your hands dirty, problem-solve and gain a strong sense of satisfaction seeing a project done and dusted – manual and technical trades could be the pathway for you!

Manual trades look after many of the ‘finishing’ services on buildings and properties: from fitting out the electricity throughout a building to constructing window frames, door frames, painting and landscaping.

Some manual trades also work on the construction of roads and provide ongoing support services across a wide variety of buildings and construction sites. Electricians may work on traffic lights, electrical grids or networks that support entire suburbs or cities!

Manual and technical trades cover everything from delivering completed buildings, infrastructure, and industrial facilities. Professionals may work on new buildings or within the repair, upgrade, and maintenance settings for residential and commercial properties.

Manual and technical trades is a broad field, with many holding skills in more than one area of expertise. Some of the core manual trades roles include:

  • Plumbing
  • Electrician
  • Air conditioning & Refrigeration
  • Plastering
  • Painting & Decoration
  • Carpentry & Joinery
  • Road Laying & Highway Maintenance
  • Landscaping & Gardening

And many more!

Manual and technical trades is a growing sector with lots of demand.

Every country needs skilled and knowledgeable trade workers to help them grow and develop, so there’s every possibility to take your skills global!

Entry into the sector is as varied as the available roles, so no matter what academic pathway you choose to pursue, there’ll be an opportunity to start with a career in manual trades.

What You Could Do

Job roles in the industry are varied, and people may hold qualifications and skills in more than one specific area.

Here’s a look at some of the top jobs you could explore:


Plumbers install, maintain and repair pipes, drains, guttering and metal roofing, mechanical services, and related equipment for water supply, gas, drainage, sewerage, heating, cooling, and ventilation systems. They can work for construction firms or independent contractors, with contracts across private, residential, and commercial sectors.


Electricians design, assemble, install, test, commission, diagnose, maintain and repair electrical networks, systems, circuits, equipment, components, appliance,s and facilities for industrial, commercial, and domestic purposes, and service and repair lifts, escalators and related equipment. Like plumbers, they can work for construction firms or as independent contractors, with contracts across the private, residential, and commercial sectors.

Air Conditioning & Refrigeration Engineer

Air conditioning and refrigeration engineering involve planning, designing, and managing air conditioning and/or refrigeration systems for commercial manufacturers. Professionals in this sector develop designs, oversee fabrication, and troubleshoot complex air conditioning and/or refrigeration systems for residential and commercial use. This might include restaurant units, refrigerated healthcare equipment, and insulated trucks and trailers.

Carpenter & Joiner

Carpenters and joiners construct, erect, install, renovate and repair structures and fixtures made of wood, plywood, wallboard, and other materials, cut, shape, and fit timber parts to form systems and fittings. Some carpenters specialise their skills and may work with heritage or antique items, repairing and maintaining them to their original designs. In this capacity, they can work with museums and cultural heritage sites. Others may work within residential and commercial sectors.

Facilities Manager

A Facilities Manager is responsible for the operational control of buildings and other facilities belonging to a public or private organisation. They coordinate the building’s maintenance and repairs to maintain a safe, clean and productive environment for the occupants. In this role, professionals usually have some trade knowledge that they can use to coordinate basic repairs in-house and know when they need to call in more specialist support. Facilities managers may look after residential buildings, commercial buildings, hospitals, schools, or sports facilities.

These job roles are only just scratching the surface!

You’ll find the more you explore the sector, the more opportunities you’ll come across.

Graduate Employment and Gender Split

Although a degree isn’t essential for every career pathway within manual and technical trades, it can be helpful for senior and management roles – or if you want to take your skills one step further into engineering.

Knowing what graduate employment looks like can help set your expectations and make further decisions.

The Graduates Outcome Survey tracks graduate employment across different industry sectors. Here’s the most recent data for this industry:

  • Engineering (Other) Graduates in full-time employment: 86.8%
  • Engineering (Electrical) Graduates employed overall: 82.8%
  • Building & Construction Graduates employed overall: 87.6%

Keep in mind this doesn’t account for graduates who freelance or may have continued to higher studies, these are promising percentages!

*Figures from 2021 survey results.

Gender Split

The gender split across the industry depends on the segment of the sector you work within, but it remains heavily male-dominated.

Recent reports indicate the current split as roughly:

  • Males: 97%
  • Females: 3%

These figures are for women actively working in manual, skilled trades roles and not administrative roles within the trades industry.

As the demand for skilled trades workers grows, many companies are focused on attracting and promoting women within the industry to ensure they see it as a valuable and welcoming place to pursue their careers.

At Explore Careers, we’re actively working with employers to help them promote Gender Diverse & Gender Positive workplaces

Average Salary:

Current surveys in the sector indicate the median salaries for full-time roles in this industry as:

  • Plumber Roles: $59,700-$85,000
  • Electrician Roles: $73,000-$85,800
  • Carpenter Roles: $68,000-$90,000
  • Air Conditioning & Refrigeration Engineer Roles: $82,100-$97,500
  • Facilities Manager Roles: $99,500-$120,000

Salaries can be pretty varied, with lower expectations for entry-level roles but plenty of scope to boost your income as you gain experience.

Salaries are also determined by several factors, including:

  • The segment of the industry you work within.
  • Your job title and seniority.
  • The amount of experience you have.

Any additional qualifications or certifications

Industry Growth

According to the Australian Industry and Skills Committee, the manual trades sector is expected to see significant growth between now and 2026.

Here’s some key data to help show what this looks like:

  • The manual trades industry is the third-largest in Australia based on the number of people it employs.
  • In 2019, over 1,15 million people were employed in construction.
  • This equates to 9.0% of all jobs in Australia – not a small figure at all!
  • 118,800 jobs are projected to be added by May 2023, which is a 10% rise in employment in manual trades.

The job and industry growth across this industry has remained strong throughout the COVID-19 pandemic and is one of the few to have not experienced significant disruptions.

As with many industries, it is impacted by technological advances, but the future outlook and prospects for this industry remain strong as workers adapt and continue to support the ongoing demand for skilled professionals.

Qualifications and Entry Pathways

Entry pathways are varied and will depend heavily on the type of role you want to get into.

You’ll typically need at least your high school education certificate for most manual trades roles and learn on the job while you gain trades qualifications, such as:

  • Labourer or Manual worker
  • Plumbing, Carpentry and Electrician roles
  • Heavy Machinery/Equipment Operator

Other roles, such as Air Conditioning and Refrigeration, will require a formal qualification, which you can usually obtain through TAFE or an apprenticeship.

All individuals working in the trades professions must hold a white card and additional professional accreditations depending on their speciality area.

You can also pursue many roles in the building and construction sector through:

  • Scoring an apprenticeship or traineeship: You can start an apprenticeship and work to gain industry-specific qualifications alongside your certificate of education and work experience.
  • Work experience once you leave school: If you leave school at 16, you can apply for work experience in entry-level positions and work your way up over time.

TAFE and vocational education pathways are ideal for individuals wishing to pursue careers in manual trades.

Here are a few of the qualifications you could pursue:

  • Certificate II in Resources and Infrastructure Work Preparation
  • White Card Course
  • Licence to Erect, Alter and Dismantle Scaffolding Basic Level Course
  • Certificate II in Construction
  • Certificate IV in Plumbing and Services
  • Certificate III in Electrotechnology Electrician

Requirements will depend on the type of role you want and the company – so make sure you research.

Whatever your circumstances, grades, or preferred way forward – there’s a qualification pathway that will work for you.

Top Skills You’ll Need

Some of the key skills identified to be successful in the industry include:

  • Commitment
  • Punctuality
  • Stamina
  • Time Management
  • Team Work
  • Problem-Solving
  • Analytical
  • Communication
  • Organisation
  • Responsibility

Best Places to Study

Where you choose to study will be dependent on a range of factors, but some top institutions to study trades professions and related subjects include:

  • Australian Trade Training College
  • RMIT University
  • Victoria University
  • Victoria University Polytechnic
  • University of South Australia
  • Swinburne University of Technology
  • TAFE (Nationwide)
  • University of Sydney
  • Queensland University of Technology

Your local TAFE and vocational education providers are also excellent places to reach out to explore your apprenticeship and vocational qualification avenues.

Where to Learn More

You can learn more about different building, construction, and trades pathways through professional bodies and organisations advocating for careers in the sector.

Some good places to start:

And many more!

Each state will also have several professional organisations to help you learn more about the industry, network, and develop your career.