In July of this year, the Ministry of Business Innovation and Enterprise (MBIE) released a useful and enlightening report to do with understanding the national construction pipeline, and the resources New Zealand requires to complete it through to 2021.
MBIE, BRANZ and Pacifecon are to be congratulated on providing some much needed clarity on what was previously a vacuum of information.
The aim of this report is to provide everyone interested in the construction sector a clear pipeline of future construction work, to assist in:
• planning by all participants in the sector,
• scheduling of investment in skills and capital, and
• co-ordination between construction procurers (particularly central and local government) that can lead to better scheduling of construction projects.
These improvements could be used to moderate the boom-bust cycles that have negative impacts on productivity, employment, skill levels and quality in the construction sector.
Releasing construction projects counter-cyclically would smooth out work flows, save money and keep skilled workforces intact during the traditional down times.
This is the first time information like this has been captured into one usable area and then expanded further into a report on national/regional construction occupation projections.
It also includes an interactive web tool to assist with projections regionally and nationally.
Until now we have naively trained in reactionary and disjointed silos when it becomes apparent we are short of a particular skill, or when training providers find it is an attractive course to fill.
More often than not, by the time we train or import the skill required, the need for them has passed, and these individuals often end up lost to other more stable career paths.
In short, we have had no idea how many plumbers, architects, electricians, technicians or manufacturing staff were needed to meet the built environment for New Zealand.
Now with clever use of the information gained from the pipeline report and the 2013 Census, we can accurately determine and ideally train in advance what is needed.
This is known as the “National Construction Occupations Model” (NCOM). It uses information from the 2013 Census, and the National Construction Pipeline Report 2016 (the Pipeline Report).
The NCOM translates the construction investment projected in the Pipeline Report, including residential, non-residential and other construction, into estimates of employment growth in construction-related occupations.
Numbers are huge, and growing
This isn’t just coalface construction workers but all construction-related personnel, such as truck drivers, manufacturing staff and accountants who all contribute to the construction sector.
The numbers are huge, and are growing at a rate beyond any other sector. Currently the numbers sit at 490,000 employees, including working proprietors, with predictions for this to grow to 539,500 by December 2021.
Training organisations need to take serious note of these projections and move away from practices of old where it was any bum on a seat to training to meet an actual need.
They can be forgiven for the past but there are no excuses going forward. Train what we need according to the statistics provided, which will result in employment prospects that match demand.
While you’re at it, consolidate and co-ordinate the training to meet a clear national standard, as there are currently too many questionable offerings which only confuse employers and trainees alike.
Small business training for trades, along with technical training, would also go a long way to preparing them for when they inevitably end up in business, avoiding many of the current business failures who have learned the hard way.
Industry also needs to take heed of this new information and take the opportunity to invest in training and plant because, finally, they have a window to the future.
Central and local governement commitment
Previously, investment was held back because of the unknown or the inevitable seven-year cycle of boom-bust.
However, this extra industry investment will only be possible if central and local government are committed to making a difference with smart procurement and project timing.
Significant advantages for all concerned can be gained by having a stable, skilled construction workforce that is insulated as best as possible from the ravages of boom-bust cycles.
Job well done, MBIE. The tools are now available, so let’s make good collective use of them and build a sustainable industry that delivers a quality product.
You can access the reports and the interactive web tool at
• This article contains the author’s opinion only, and is not necessarily the opinion of the Registered Master Builders Association, its chief executive or staff.