On board with Civil Trades

This article first appeared in Contractor Perspectives 2017.

 A two-year view of the civil construction industry from its Infrastructure Industry Training Organisation (ITO). David Worsnop, interim chief executive, Connexis.

THE 2016 YEAR was one of growth and development for Connexis and the wider industry, particularly around Civil Trades.

The next 12 months will see more options for employers than ever for the continued upskilling of their employees, and I am excited to be coming on board at such a pivotal time. With over 35 years of experience gained at organisations including Fletcher Construction, Transfield Services, and Watercare, it is interesting to have come full circle from life as a contractor and asset owner to now being involved in the professionalisation of the industry.

The ongoing skills shortage, the introduction of the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015, and the release of the 30 Year Infrastructure Plan have all put the spotlight on the importance of a competent, qualified workforce for the civil infrastructure industry.

Demand for skilled workers is at an all-time high, with a forecast of an additional 49,000 people required by 2025 to deliver on the planned $110 billion government investment in infrastructure.

Civil Trades is a significant step forward in enabling employers to have easy access to a work-ready workforce and provides an unrivalled opportunity for the wider industry to meet the skills challenge.

Connexis believes that Civil Trades will change the face of the industry as we know it and we strongly encourage employers to get on board.

The introduction of one consistent industry standard and recognised trade will enable employers to get the skills of their existing employees recognised, and to attract new entrants to careers in the civil infrastructure industry. In addition, embracing Civil Trades is one of the most effective ways for employers to meet their increased health and safety responsibilities.

In the 12 months since its launch in December 2015 (and the successful pilot scheme with 14 Recognition of Current Competence [RCC] candidates) Civil Trades has gained considerable traction and the number of Certified Civil Tradespeople is growing rapidly.

Throughout September, October and November 2016, Connexis toured New Zealand with the Civil Trades roadshow. These events, held throughout the North and South Islands, provided an opportunity for employers and local councils to meet with Connexis to get their questions and concerns answered. Connexis has received more than 100 expressions of interest in new enrolments from employers as a direct result of the roadshow, and this number is increasing all the time.

More than 300 people are currently enrolled in qualifications with the objective of becoming Civil Trades certified. Our focus on RCC candidates has allowed those with significant industry experience and knowledge to be recognised, and we will carry this on into 2017.

The highlight of 2016 was the rollout of a suite of New Zealand apprenticeships for civil infrastructure, which can lead to Civil Trades certification.

The timing couldn’t be better as government signalled the importance of investment in industry training with the November 2016 announcement of its target of 50,000 people in apprenticeships by 2020. Connexis also partnered with other ITOs on Got a Trade 2016 – an initiative to promote trades as a viable career option, and attract more young people to the infrastructure industries.

Looking at this year and beyond, we will continue to partner with Civil Contractors New Zealand (CCNZ) to boost momentum and industry uptake of Civil Trades.

We have just entered year two of a five-year plan for the full integration of Civil Trades into the civil contract process, and by 2020 we expect that Civil Trades will be embedded into Local Government tender attributes. This five-year window will give contractors time to promote, engage and qualify staff on the new Level 4 qualifications and apply for Civil Trades certification. We will also work closely with CCNZ at national and branch level to promote Civil Trades.

As competition for job seekers intensifies we will step up our drive to attract new talent to our industries, and to promote civil infrastructure as a legitimate career which will assist with succession planning for the future.

We will be working to strengthen stakeholder partnerships and identify opportunities to close the gap between job seekers and employers. We will be providing advice to Ministers on apprenticeships, focusing on what works in terms of entry programmes and how enrolments can be encouraged.

We will develop our work with other ITOs on Got a Trade, and will lead the way in gender diversity through the promotion of females into non-traditional roles within our industries through activities under our brand ‘Ultimit – Women in Infrastructure’.

The emergence of Civil Trades means that the civil infrastructure industry is now in a stronger position than ever before to meet the skills challenge. While it is not a ‘silver bullet’, the benefits to employers, employees and the wider industry cannot be understated.

If you haven’t already done so, then we do hope you will get on board with Civil Trades in 2017.    CP

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