New report points the way to addressing labor issues in infrastructure

A new report on entry into the civil infrastructure construction workforce in New Zealand has been published by the national association Civil Contractors New Zealand, with support from the Department of Social Development and the Department of Business, Innovation and Employment.

Title Develop a skilled workforce in civil constructionthe 67-page report explores the challenges and solutions the civil infrastructure construction industry faces in attracting new entrants to the job market and turning them into skilled civilian workers.

Civil Contractors chief executive Alan Pollard said the critical shortage of civil construction workers in New Zealand was exacerbated by a limited connection to schools, a lack of support for training and induction into the job and a high cost of training with a limited number of trainers.

The report focused on supporting new entrants to join the labor market – an issue of primary importance for an industry employing up to 60,000 kiwis in the construction of roads, water networks, airports and other critical infrastructure in New Zealand, Mr Pollard said.

“Civil construction is a vitally important industry, offering lucrative and rewarding work. But as an industry, we currently run small-scale programs to integrate and develop people, with little coordination and a lack of connection with the education system.

“The report’s findings will position the industry to play a leading role in addressing challenges and seizing opportunities by attracting new people to the industry, as well as improving worker skills and working more closely with education and government partners.”

The work in the report explored the actions the civil construction industry was taking to achieve this, and many successful programs that had been identified through research and could be shared with industry, he said. .

“Government’s work with industry through the Construction Skills Action Plan, MSD, Regional Skills Hubs and Te Puni Kokiri funded projects has made a big difference. These are great programs, and we need more of them to connect with industry and prepare people to succeed when they start working and prepare them for the jobs they’re heading into.

Mr Pollard said there were excellent examples of industry programs in action that really needed to be scaled up. The Infrastructure Skills Center is a key example of an industry-led, government-funded admissions pilot program that has shown very good results for course participants, he said.

Many other industry-specific work readiness programs are government-backed for licenses, tickets, workshops, and support for people to learn the skills, including soft skills, they need to get started to work and have a successful and rewarding career.

The conclusions of the report
the
Develop a skilled workforce in civil construction
report found that there are successful approaches in action and great opportunities to utilize what has been learned from the company’s entry-level pilots and training programs, with a consistent approach across the industry.

To establish a functional pathway for training in the trades, consistent and accessible integration into the industry is needed to enable people to join the civil construction workforce with the skills and knowledge they need to succeed in their careers in civilian trades.

Key recommendations include:

  • The civil construction industry must take the lead in addressing its workforce development challenges, through an established industry forum
  • Support long-term employment readiness programs
  • Learning lessons from short-term pilots
  • Supporting and integrating civilian trades as an industry professional certification
  • Better connect industry to schools
  • Clarifying social markets for civil construction companies

Key opportunities identified include:

  • Use technology to overcome barriers posed by site security requirements and equipment cost
  • Work with the new entities created as part of the vocational education reform
  • Showcase the challenging career path available and inspire people to embrace the tools of the civilian trades
  • Understand social procurement and its benefits

It was identified that to make the most of the opportunity for change, industry and its partners should embrace new ways of working, including recognition of managers as on-the-job trainers, maturation of the apprenticeship system for civil construction, the provision of more practical on-the-job skills prior to hiring, funding for appropriate industry-specific training, and an easily accessible description of the career path and necessary skills.

Mr Pollard said that while the report focused primarily on the work being done by industry to address the issues, it was also important that partners and supporters in government and education take into account the findings and can play their role.

the Develop a skilled workforce in civil construction both the report and the snapshot of the report are available online at Civilcontractors.co.nz.

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Michael A. Bynum