ADVOCATE COLUMN 2nd WEEK JULY 2016
Late last month the Northland branch of Civil Contractors New Zealand held their annual awards. This reinforced the improved capability of Northland businesses and their ability to compete with national companies for civil contract work throughout the region. More importantly it demonstrated how local business can work in collaboration with outside companies to build both their capability and their capacity in a manner that can provide long-term benefit and employment opportunities in Northland.
This sector is about so much more than just using large machinery to shift vast quantities of materials. The work undertaken by these businesses can be extremely complex and involve high levels of risk. Therefore it requires a highly trained and skillful workforce, working within an environment that encourages creative problem solving. It was interesting to see the innovative and practical approaches many of the entrants had adopted to solve particularly challenging construction problems. In many instances these solutions resulted in cost savings and reduced inconvenience or disruption to various Northland communities.
So why is this sector important to our region? It plays an important role in our region’s development through the building and maintenance of our roading, transport, energy, public services infrastructure and services to the residential and commercial construction sectors. In other words those things that a modern developed economy must have to operate efficiently and to deliver high living standards for its people. No matter what pathway New Zealand takes in terms of future land transport strategies in the next 30 to 50 years one thing that is certain is that there will continued increase in investment in transport infrastructure whether it be road or rail. This will result in a continued and growing demand in this sector. Certainty around demand accompanied by increased capability of local firms allows them to invest in growing the capacity through investing in equipment and people.
How they go about growing workforce will be particularly interesting. Without a clear and practical pathway from learning and into these industries, Northland businesses may struggle to meet a future and growing demand. This sector has worked hard to create some very strong vocational pathways through which young people can develop skills, enjoy meaningful employment with opportunities for both financial reward and career advancement. Celebrating the success of these businesses will hopefully also remind parents and educators that these are legitimate career paths for young people to pursue.