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Building a healthy public image

PETER SILCOCK, CHIEF EXECUTIVE, CCNZ

For too long the civil construction industry has had an image problem. We are seen to be a last resort career with unskilled workers doing hard labour for minimum wages. Changing that image is a massive challenge. But that’s what we need to do and we all have a part to play.

It’s crazy, because our industry is full of people who love what they do and are rightly very proud of what they build. Building dams, roads, water networks and airports is exciting. We connect communities and provide them with vital services like water, internet, energy, flood protection and recreation spaces. Our tertiary qualifications allow people to earn while they learn rather than stacking up student loan debt. Some would say it’s a marketer’s dream.

Civil construction is a career people should aspire to. Sure, we aren’t afraid of getting our hands dirty, but having practical hands-on skills and getting grubby at work occasionally doesn’t mean we are stuck in a career going nowhere. We don’t have to spin the truth, we just need to tell our own stories about the rewarding, challenging, satisfying and lucrative work we do.

We need to attract practical and technology-savvy people who are problem solvers and innovators. People with a ‘get up and go’ attitude who want to make a difference. To do this, we must step up our image.

With New Zealand’s low unemployment rate, we desperately need to increase diversity in our talent pool. We have a large-scale shortage of people, but nearly half of job seekers – most women – don’t see us as a viable career alternative.

Several companies have stepped up to the plate to attract and support female workers. It’s great to see more women working on sites in a wide range of roles, including traffic control, plant operation, truck driving, site management and engineering. And it is great to see women getting qualified, like Pearl Jury, who became the first woman in New Zealand to gain Civil Trades certification last year.

The women who work in civil construction are a huge asset. Women may be under-represented in our industry, but those who do work in civil construction are finding rewarding careers and doing a great job of representing the industry.

Women like Gabrielle Bush, a project engineer on the Transmission Gully project north of Wellington who chairs the Transmission Gully Network of Women. Like Lynne Makepeace, who managed the northern section of Auckland’s Waterview Tunnel, and like Bailey Gair and Marianne Archer, managing directors of successful civil construction companies.

Initiatives to increase diversity are becoming more prominent. Initiatives like the National Association of Women in Construction (NAWIC) and Infrastructure New Zealand’s Women In Infrastructure network provide construction networking opportunities. There’s also the Connexis ITO’s Ultimit network, which is currently seeking new hosts to connect contractors with girls in schools as part of its Girls with Hi-Vis campaign.

CCNZ’s EPIC Careers in Infrastructure campaign encourages diversity and features positive messages about working in civil construction. And we’re developing avenues for contractors to share their stories, including social media channels and an upcoming photo competition held in partnership with Contractor Magazine.

We’re also building resources to show the world the meaning behind a career in civil construction. One is a linking map for contractors to showcase projects and regional work opportunities, which can be found on the EPIC website at www.EPICwork.nz/map.

EPIC’s new video series features the perspectives of young contractors, and has been added to the EPIC Digital Toolkit and website. These videos are perfect for inspiring young career seekers and giving them an insight into what working in civil construction is all about.

EPIC resources are available for our members to use to reach out to schools, communities and career seekers. Resources can be downloaded from the Members’ Section of the CCNZ website, or brochures, posters and USB sticks with our videos and presentation templates can be ordered from CCNZ.

We know we have a lot to offer. Good rates of pay, meaningful work in the outdoors, opportunities to get qualified while being paid on the job, and fantastic pathways for career progression. Now we need to tell the world.

“Women may be under-represented in our industry, but those who do work in civil construction are finding rewarding careers and doing a great job of representing the industry.”

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