Not just a job, but a career in civil construction

By Peter Silcock, chief executive, CCNZ 

LAST WEEK CCNZ convened a meeting of branch chairs and the Executive Council. The clear message was that getting enough people with the right qualifications is the biggest challenge the industry is facing.

That was certainly not a surprise. The infrastructure pipeline report regularly published by the Treasury Infrastructure Unit shows that we are doing unprecedented levels of work. With more than $11 billion per annum to be spent each year for the next 10 years on infrastructure, this is not just a peak of a boom bust cycle, this is a new level of work that we need to gear up for both in terms of people and equipment.

Population and economic growth, earthquake work, renewing or replacing our aging three waters infrastructure, the broadband rollout, responding to increasingly frequent climate events and building more resilience into our infrastructure are all contributing to this increased level of work.

There is a projected shortfall of 30,000 people over the next three years to resource New Zealand’s construction industry. If 20 to 30 percent of that relates to civil construction that means we need another 10,000 people over the next three years alone. That is a major challenge for an industry that is already short of people.

The reality is that we have been considered as a “last resort” for job seekers; the poor cousin of other construction industry jobs and a male-only domain – “If you can’t get a job anywhere else then go and hold a stop-go paddle”.

We need to sell the civil construction industry as a viable and rewarding career option.

There is a lot we can do. We need to attract people to civil construction careers by selling the sizzle of the industry – the iconic jobs, big equipment, technology, innovation and the importance to our everyday lives of the work we do. We need to welcome women on to our sites and proactively encourage them to take up careers in our businesses. We need to ride the wave of the public’s growing awareness of the importance of infrastructure.

With the launch of CCNZ’s Civil Trades programme in late 2015, we have created a career path for those people on site that can proudly sit up there with other building trade qualifications.

By offering people a career, not just a job, we significantly improve the chances of attracting people with the right attitude that can quickly develop the skills we need.

The meeting last week decided that CCNZ should lead a three-year civil construction careers promotion campaign.

The objective of this campaign is to get more 18 to 35-year-olds taking up careers in the civil construction industry because they see it as a viable and rewarding career option.

Along the way we need to promote a better understanding of the diversity of the civil construction industry (what industry is and what we do), the variety of careers available at all levels and across all disciplines and the role of women in the industry.

We also need to develop an effective tool to transition people from awareness/interest into employment in the industry. Once we have sparked interest we need businesses to offer civil construction careers and to support and develop people as they join our industry.

The campaign will take a nationally coordinated approach that will engage and use the reach of our branches, national office, contractors, associate members and other stakeholders. There is already a lot of work going on with people visiting schools and attending careers days and using online tools to promote work opportunities in the industry.

We certainly don’t want to reinvent the wheel. What we want to do is develop some consistent messages with appropriate hard and soft copy resources including background stories, information, images and industry champions that can be used by anyone to create a consistent presence (both in person and electronically) in key places and at key events.

We want to support and make it easier for those who are already doing work in this area and encourage others to act.

This article first appeared in Contractor May 2017.

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