Horizontal Building

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-By John Boley

The Civil Contractors Federation (CCF) is the member based representative body of civil engineering contractors in Australia, providing assistance and expertise in contractor development and industry issues. The Federation represents more than 2,000 small, medium and large sized contractors that are part of an industry which employs around 350,000 people.

CCF members are involved in a variety of projects and activities including the development and maintenance of civil infrastructure such as roads, bridges, dams, wharves, and commercial and housing land development. Civil construction is for historic reasons considered as part of the building and construction industries but in effect it represents 30 percent or more of the sector nationally and over 40 percent in some states such as Queensland.

The national chief executive officer of CCF is Chris White, who explains that promoting the distinct identity of civil construction is an important part of the association’s work. “We like to think of ourselves as a separate industry: the civil construction industry. We differentiate ourselves from the building construction industry by saying that the latter is about vertical structures while civil construction is about horizontal structures – roads, bridges, marine structures, dams and all sorts of earthworks including those related to distribution and provision of services. We are about moving earth and it’s about horizontal construction.

“Our mantra, if you like, is that we are the voice of civil construction in Australia. We have a lobbying role but also an information-providing role for our members. We have a training role and also high on our agenda is a range of functions and events that we organise to bring the industry together and work on various things that support our lobbying and information-sharing with our members. One of those is the Earth Awards,” the annual competition judging construction and environmental excellence.

The days when a trade organisation could set out its stall as a mere social club have long gone. “I am satisfied that CCF represents value for money,” says Chris. “But I am always looking for new things – things we need to improve on or introduce as innovations to what we do. One of the things we need to do more over time is to develop our electronic communications system.” Work is in hand, he says, including a new website to debut later this year, as well as further features to be delivered via what is generally regarded as ‘social networking’ – fact sheets, toolkits – available electronically rather than via print. “We are always looking at ways to add value. Our function is to develop support materials to help our member companies.”

Inevitably, education and training are high on the list of CCF’s priorities. “In terms of a skilled workforce I think we are facing troubled times,” Chris admits. “There is increasing competition for a decreasing resource – i.e. people to do the work – amplified by the ageing population, the retirement rate of our current skilled workforce, and competition not only from within like organisations/industries such as mining but also from completely different sorts of occupations.

“We’re not alone by any means, I think; we are part of a national problem, but we do have our own problems relating to this industry that we continue to tackle. On the positive side, we are setting up three skill centres. The first is in South Australia and we have started to build in WA and we are planning another in QLD.”

These centres, adds Chris, are not just about bricks and mortar but about complementing and enhancing conventional teaching methods with both on-the-job experience and simulators for a really high-powered training experience.

What Chris and his colleagues at CCF work for is better recognition of what civil constructors do and their status as skilled workers. “Generally, throughout the community, the trade occupations have been described as ‘labourers’ in our industry and we are working very hard to shift people’s thinking away from that.”

Making Sense of Management

Management is the art, or science, of getting things done through people. Sounds fairly straightforward – except for the fact that people are not robots waiting to do our bidding. People have their own minds, motivations, and goals. So how do managers keep operations – and the people behind them – running as planned?

November 21, 2018, 3:44 AM AEDT