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Skilling Up in Construction
  • Posted Tuesday, 14 March 2017
  • -
  • In Articles

Skilling Up in Construction

It is clear there has been a significant decline in the commitment to training within the construction industry over the last two decades. In more recent years it has been further aggravated by the downturn in the resources industry. This is largely due to the knock on effect within support industries which service the mining sector. In addition to that, and more locally, there has been a noted decline in construction and in this situation the concern to employers with commitment to apprenticeship training, is the continuity of work and the uncertainty around this. Naturally it is quite disruptive for the trainee when they experience a fragmented term throughout their training.

In the past it was a foregone conclusion that if you had more than two tradesmen your business almost certainly supported an apprentice and over the decades this has changed largely because the nature of the industry has changed. A large number of apprentices came from relatively small operators and over the years there has been significant growth in larger operations which are not generally set up for training. Much of their work is subcontracted and the focus is on project management. This is not to suggest it applies to all, but the percentage of companies which support apprenticeships and construction skills training is low.

Sadly as a nation we are losing vital skills that will be necessary for future growth. I believe all companies should consider developing a training plan, relative to their expertise and size. It is difficult to see the real benefits of apprentices and trainees at the outset if we are to look at it in the same way as we always have. However, in truth having a plan to engage trainees and apprentices in your business can offer returns almost immediately.

There is a stigma around apprentices and trainees that harbours the view that they are costly, unreliable and hard work and it takes too long to see a return benefit. My business is small and definitely cannot support a liability such as a non-productive trainee or apprentice who does not generate a return. I also hold a view that an apprentice today - regardless of the trade - must be multi-skilled. Naturally, this is generally supported in the training programs provided but is often not encouraged in the workplace. As part of the training program from the outset, the apprentice can add value if given appropriate training and responsibility and ownership very early in their course.


Site administration duties which are often managed poorly such as site diary management, site cleaning and safety, tool maintenance, observation and reporting, delivered materials checks, accident and incident reporting and first aid are just some areas where our apprentices can make an important contribution. These are repetitive tasks on which we can skill up our young employees quickly and effectively, and provide real value to the business in the short term.


Ownership, trust and responsibility are the keys to a reliable employee who holds up the values of your business. Naturally, these skills are developed simultaneously with the trade training. There are many items to consider and they need to be significant and relevant to your business. It is clear that the more they learn and understand how all the interfacing elements work together, the sooner it will have a positive effect on the bottom line.


Young people have a great deal to offer if given the opportunity. Naturally it is necessary to screen for the right fit with respect to culture, values and potential. At Nixon Build we have been working closely with Construction Skills Queensland over the last 12 months, developing a training program which embraces and accommodates all employees.


I believe that with the competitive nature of business today it is essential to skill up your workforce to optimise efficiency and do well in this current market. Furthermore, the construction industry by nature is very transient and these skilled people can then pass their skills on to others, creating an overall positive change within the industry. The building industry has become so regulated that in order to remain effective it is necessary for all individuals representing your business to add value. In addition, there are encouraging incentives provided by the state and federal governments as it has clearly been recognised as in the national interest to upskill Australians.


With clever direction and wise investment, value adding in trainees and apprentices works. As sure as this is an ever changing world, it is also necessary to change the way we think about training.