Without clear entry points for new workers to start jobs and gain the trade skills they need before starting work, New Zealand will struggle to develop the skilled workforce it needs to carry out its infrastructure construction programme, a Civil Contractors New Zealand report finds
A new report on entering New Zealand’s civil infrastructure construction workforce has been published by national association Civil Contractors New Zealand, with support from the Ministry of Social Development and the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment.
Titled Developing a Skilled Civil Construction Workforce, the 67-page report explores the challenges and solutions the civil infrastructure construction industry faces in bringing new entrants into the workforce and developing them into skilled civil tradespeople.
Civil Contractors Chief Executive Alan Pollard says New Zealand’s critical civil construction worker shortage was exacerbated by limited connection to schools, a lack of support for work-ready training and induction and a high cost of training with a limited supply of trainers.
The report focussed on supporting new entrants to join the workforce – an issue of prime importance for an industry employing up to 60,000 kiwis in constructing NZ’s roads, water networks, airports and other essential infrastructure, Pollard says.
“Civil construction is a vitally important industry, offering lucrative and rewarding work. But as an industry, we are currently running small-scale programmes to onboard and upskill people, with little co-ordination and a lack of connection with the education system.
“The report findings will enable the industry to take a lead role in addressing the challenges and opportunities in bringing new people into the industry, as well as better upskilling workers and working more closely with partners in education and government.”
The work in the report explored actions the civil construction industry was taking to do this, and many successful programmes that had been identified through the research, and could be shared with the industry, he says.
“The Government’s work with industry through the Construction Skills Action Plan, MSD, Regional Skills Hubs, and Te Puni Kokiri funded projects have made a big difference. These are great programmes, and we need more of them to tie in with industry and prepare people for success when starting work and ready them for the jobs they are going into.”
Pollard says there were some great examples of industry programmes in action that really needed to ramp up. The Infrastructure Skills Centre was a key example of a Government funded industry-led intake pilot programme that resulted in very good outcomes for those on the course.
Many other industry-specific work readiness programmes are supported by Government for licensing, tickets, workshops and supporting people to gain the skills, including soft skills, they need to start work and have a successful and rewarding career.
The report findings
The Developing a Skilled Civil Construction Workforce report found there are successful approaches in action, and great opportunities to use what has been learnt from pilots and company entry-level training programmes, with a coherent industry-wide approach.
To establish a functioning pathway for trades training, a consistent and accessible industry induction is needed to enable people to join the civil construction workforce with the skills and knowledge they need for a successful career in the civil trades.
Key recommendations include:
- The civil construction industry to take the lead in addressing its workforce development issues, through an established industry forum
- Supporting long-term work readiness programmes
- Retaining the learnings from short-term pilots
- Supporting and embedding Civil Trades as the industry trade certification
- Better connecting industry with schools
- Clarifying social procurement for civil construction companies
Key opportunities identified include:
- Using technology to overcome barriers posed by site safety requirements and equipment cost
- Working with the new entities established under the Reform of Vocational Education
- Showcasing the aspirational career path available and inspiring people to take up the tools of the civil trades
- Truly understanding social procurement and its benefits
It was identified that to make the most of the opportunity for change, the industry and its partners would need to embrace new ways of working, including recognition of supervisory staff as on-job trainers, maturing the apprenticeship system for civil construction, delivery of more practical on-job skills prior to employment, funding for appropriate industry-specific training, and a readily available description of the career pathway and the skills needed.
Pollard says while the report primarily focussed on the work the industry was doing to address the issues, it was also important that partners and supporters within government and education took the findings on board and were able to play their part.
The Developing a Skilled Civil Construction Workforce report and report snapshot are both available online at Civilcontractors.co.nz.