Time to talk about training

This article first appeared in Contractor February 2017.

By ROB GAIMSTER, Cement & Concrete Association of NZ (CCANZ), NZ Ready Mixed Concrete Association (NZRMCA).

IT IS NO SECRET that our building and construction industry is currently faced with a shortage of skilled workers.

An unprecedented level of activity across residential, commercial and civil sectors is potentially at risk of being influenced by a lack of suitably trained people.

It is also no secret that a key strategy to address this pressing issue is having more people enrol in industry qualifications, such as those offered by the Building and Construction Industry Training Organisation (BCITO).

In addition to the in-house training courses made available by various companies, the BCITO is the primary training provider for the concrete industry, offering a range of concrete-based National Certificates ranging from concrete production, precast concrete, concrete product manufacture, placing / finishing, sawing / drilling, and concrete construction.

The BCITO supports employers committed to industry training in more ways than just providing qualifications. The organisation helps to meet the skill needs of the industry by facilitating learning in the workplace.

Through a process of regional and national liaison with industry these qualifications are continually reviewed by the BCITO to ensure the content remains relevant and the delivery mechanism effective and efficient.

For the first time in the BCITO’s history, it now has 10,000 apprentices actively working towards qualifications in the building and construction industry. The organisation is signing up around 3000-4000 new apprentices each year – a clear indication of the fierce demand for apprentices.

However, while these enrolment figures are at an historic high, in clear alignment with the unparalleled amount of building taking place, they are not sufficient if forecasts for anticipated needs are accurate.

The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) recently released the Future Demand for Construction Workers report, which predicts that demand for construction-related occupations will increase by 10 percent between 2015 and 2021, or approximately 49,000 employees. This has a flow-on effect in terms of apprentice numbers, which the BCITO believes need to double by 2021.

Reasons to train

The benefits of training are well known and relatively straightforward, for instance, taking on an apprentice and /or training staff allows employers to develop their workers’ skills according to their own standards – it’s an investment in growing both a business and the industry.

A strong driver for the recruitment of younger staff supported by robust training is the risk posed by the average age of people working in the concrete industry going up and the significant change in the age profile.

Training also motivates employees to achieve, as they are emotionally investing in the work they’re doing. It is great for business because it encourages staff to stick around and creates a positive organisational culture.

To make sure the industry has enough qualified professionals to be sustainable; skilled and willing employers need to help shape the next generation of qualified professionals. Training others is a good way to keep abreast of the latest industry developments and meet others in the industry.

In terms of ‘dollars and cents’, recent BCITO research demonstrates that training apprentices generates profit – that for every $1.00 spent on training a (carpentry) apprentice, a business will benefit by $4.70 in increased profit up to a 10-year period.

Future strategies

So what is being done to address this issue and encourage the uptake of apprentices?

Chief amongst a range of strategies is the Workforce Development project that aims to support construction industry businesses and employers to develop a workforce that has the capability and capacity to meet current and future needs.

Following considerable industry consultation by the BCITO three key areas of focus to help industry develop the workforce were identified:

  • Getting the right workforce
  • Running businesses effectively
  • Developing skills and valuing qualifications.

Workforce Development Plans for each of the 17 trade sectors under BCITO’s coverage have been created. Each plan outlines the challenges a particular sector faces and the key ways a sector can respond to these challenges. The plans also include detailed themes and highlight actions that will make change happen.

CCANZ and the concrete industry is pleased to be collaborating with the BCITO on this important initiative, the Workforce Development Plans represent a collective pledge from associations, employers, industry partners and the BCITO.

Shared commitment

Such is the importance of this issue that the Labour Party has just announced a group of policies in the form of Ready for Work, Transforming Careers Advice, Working Futures and Dole for Apprenticeships all of which touch on trade training to some degree.

This issue will remain key for some time to come, and it is imperative that all parties involved demonstrate a collective commitment to work together and take action now to develop a workforce that best meets current and future needs.

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