Samantha Gain, president of IPWEA, updated RIMS conference participants about the engineering association’s current activities and future plans.
IPWEA NEW ZEALAND, as you hopefully know, is a membership organisation. We support the provision of public works through training and events, publications and manuals, and branch meeting and conferences like RIMS.
We’ve been around for about 108 years and I’m the first female president. I am also not an engineer, so we’re ticking a few boxes on the diversity stakes at the moment, which is really great.
We joined IPWEA Australasia three or four years ago now as a special division, and that’s going very well for us.
We’re here to serve you, our members, and we have a tight staffing team. I’m not a paid member of staff – it’s a voluntary role for me, but Peter Higgs who happens to be the immediate past president, manages the IPWEA New Zealand business, and Jacqui Carroll office manager; Trina Paul, events manager; and Frida Wells, marketing manager, are the key workers in our business. We also have some of the marketing comms work done in the background in Australia.
We have a branch structure and five branches. Jamie Cox is the chair of the East Coast branch (engineering manager, Wairoa District Council); Sarah Sinclair, Northern Branch chair (chief engineer Infrastructure & Environmental Services, Auckland Council); Chris French, Wellington/Taranaki branch chair (associate Water and Waste Water, Beca); John Mackie, Northern South Island chair (head of 3 water & waste Christchurch City Council; and Erin Moogan, Otago/Southland branch chair (Infrastructure Maintenance and Operations manager, Queenstown Lakes District Council).
Erin Moogan is also on the RIMS committee. On the IPWEA board are the five branch chairs and then six members who are elected at large, and of those six members, each year three come up for election – and elected for a two-year term (elections took place in May with three roles rotated).
We’ve recently tried to make better connections with our various entities and committees and RIMS is one of those.
Gordon Hart, who’s been the chair of the RIMS committee for quite a while now, comes to our board meetings in a kind of ex officio capacity in order that we have the linkage into the REG committee.
And the NAMS (NZ Asset Management Support) committee chair, Al Munro, sits on the board anyway.
Within the family we also have the IDS (Infrastructure Decision Support) and while IPWEA is its owner, it is run as an arms-length organisation.
We also have the Land Development Engineering Group (LDEG) which is a special interest group,
We have a committee of the younger members – under 35’s – the official age for being ‘young’ in an IPWEA sense. And I must say, it’s an initiative that is right across Australasia. All divisions have Young IPWEA and there’s an Australasian committee as well. It’s been a very, very successful initiative and it started off three or four years ago with the idea to bring more young people into the industry and make connections through the organisation, and to provide career paths. Young IPWEA representatives sit on each division board and the chair of Young IPWEA sits on the Australasia board.
In New Zealand, Chris Chapman is an elected board member of IPWEA having come up through Young IPWEA. It’s a great initiative, and I encourage you, if you have younger people in your organisation, to get involved.
“…when you are setting up a project, get a multi-disciplinary team on it when you’re starting to plan your work. Don’t just talk to the engineers. Make sure you are involving your planners and your finance people and your lawyers. You know, all the people who are going to help you to deliver…”
Internationally we are part of IPWEA and when we joined there was a bit of concern about what that might mean for New Zealand, and was it going to be a good thing.
I think we can definitely say it’s been a good decision, and the divisions are all working well together now; we’ve got some real traction going. The chief executives of all the divisions have regular meetings and sharing of initiatives.
It’s going well and IPWEA has a couple of programmes that we are running at the Australasian [level].
One of these is the street lighting smart controls programme which you may be aware of. Out of this programme there’s been a standard draft specification for LED street lighting that’s been developed. And there will be another conference in Australia on that theme later this year, which will have kind of more of this smart controls focus rather than the street lighting focus.
Another thing that IPWEA Australasia has established is NAMS Canada set up to provide access to IPWEA’s AM tools, publications & training. It was done kind of on spec, but again that is proving very successful. Indeed a lot of sales and a lot of training are being delivered.
We’re affiliated members of IFME, the International Federation of Municipal Engineering.
Ross Vincent has been the president of IFME in the past, so we have good connections there.
We have connections into the American Public Works Association (APWA), which aligns with IFME and PWX, which is the Public Works Expo – an annual conference of APWA which I will go to this year in Kansas City. There’s a good representation from Australasia there too.
It also includes a study tour, so if anyone is interested in doing a study tour associated with this conference in August, do get in touch because the study tour is being run out of Australia.
The hoopla4jobs website is a service that’s provided by IPWEA which is well used in New Zealand (and quite successfully) so do have a look at that if you’ve got roles coming up.
Hopefully you get the IPWEA NZ fortnightly e-news with a New Zealand focus and links to content from all the Australian divisions.
The Excellence Awards
Every year we have the IPWEA New Zealand Excellence Awards and they’re presented at our conference dinner.
There are four categories: Strategic asset management, maximising asset performance, best public works project under $5 million, and best public works project over $5 million. Entries closed mid-May.
From my perspective role collaboration is a really key thing for me.
It’s not only collaboration between councils, about what your policies are, or what your asset management policy is, or what your approach to your roading is, which assets tools you use, which contractors you use, or even how you do procurement.
I mean all that’s important, but we’re a small country and we don’t need to be re-inventing the wheel. And I think we need to be talking even more than we do already.
Events like this are a great opportunity to do that, but we also need to take forward the contacts that we make and actually do that sharing.
Interestingly, at the Infrastructure Management Forum, Malcom Alexander (chief executive, Local Government NZ), was talking about his interactions with central government. Even at central government there’s a lot more talk about collaboration – collaboration between departments, and for local government organisations.
The ability for us to access relevant central government departments is important and I think we should have more of an opportunity to do that and for our voice to be heard, so I’m keen to promote that.
The other key learning from both the forums, was that when you are setting up a project, get a multi-disciplinary team on it when you’re starting to plan your work. Don’t just talk to the engineers. Make sure you are involving your planners and your finance people and your lawyers. You know, all the people who are going to help you to deliver, all the people that need to be involved at the outset so you can plan for the best result.
Training and education
Keeping relevant is key for IPWEA NZ, and while work at the moment is quite internally focused, one of the key things that we are doing is refreshing, or having a close look at, the training that we offer.
We’ve got a training working group under way and we’re trying to develop some of the things that we’re a bit more agile about in responding to industry demand. So, you should see some of those things coming through. And if you’ve got any ideas about things that you know we should be doing, please let us know.
Career paths and resourcing
This is a sector-wide problem in the local government sector generally, and more particularly in assets management and in engineering. We’re doing some work jointly with the Tertiary Education Commission on its programme which is called ‘Engineering e2e’.
It’s called ‘Fostering our Future’, and the purpose of this is the acknowledgement that we are lacking in skilled and qualified people with engineering-related qualifications. The programme has three objectives: to attract, develop and retain people.
It’s not the sort of qualification like a BE; it’s more a sort of BE Tech. This programme is looking at ways to provide some different qualifications, and different paths to qualifications to bring people into this sector and to retain them.
At least 50 percent of public works professionals hold an uncredited qualification in infrastructure management. IPWEA and ‘Engineering e2e’ are working together to evaluate the feasibility of using micro credentials to provide recognition and pathways for the development of the unique skills required by qualified infrastructure assets managers.
Micro credentials are packages of learning designed to meet specific learner needs. They are generally smaller than conventional qualifications and validate skills and learning linked into specific work force demands. We need your help to answer the big questions and share your experience. Join the conversation at www.fosteringourfuture.works. There is a five-minute questionnaire there and it takes you through what the barriers to learning in your organisation are and what would you find useful in relation to how qualifications might be expressed.
And, I’m always open to talk about anything that you think IPWEA New Zealand could be doing that we’re not, or things that you think are great. Please let me know.
This article was first published in the August 2018 issue of Contractor Magazine.