What got us to here won’t get us there

This Issue This is a part of the Celebrating success feature

By - , Build 189

Dean Kimpton, Construction Sector Accord Transformation Director, says the Accord has proved its credibility with the way it has handled COVID-19. That success boosts optimism as it looks ahead to the key areas now needing transformation.

FOR TOO LONG, the construction sector has been focused on this week, this quarter, this year, this project, that risk, this issue, that change, this is urgent! Focused on the moment but not always on the important or the horizon.

Seeing the future or scanning the horizon means we can bring that day forward and be ready for it – to transform in advance. More on what this means later.

Dealing with COVID

Credibility to lead change for the future is also built on dealing with the present, especially the big rocks – those significant ones. With my Construction Sector Accord hat on, that has been how we responded to COVID-19, Delta, Omicron – however sick of it (or from it) we might be.

At the outset, it felt like an existential threat to the sector. It demanded an agile, collaborative and innovative response, and the Accord as a partnership delivered that. What’s more, I believe we went on to understand how to work with it, leverage the change it forced on us and, in some areas, managed to accelerate to the future the Accord aspired to.

Building an enduring partnership

Credibility means the Accord has become the go-to place for the government and construction sector to meet and get its COVID response together. Credibility has built an enduring partnership between government and the private sector that can address the COVID present and the transformed future.

Here’s a simple example. In January, I convened a regular meeting of sector leaders at the Accord Forum to discuss our Omicron response. CHASNZ provided excellent resources, and Building and Construction Minister Hon Poto Williams joined us to listen to issues, challenges and respond.

As a sector, we have had a lot of ministerial time over the last few years. Long may it continue – the benefit has gone two ways as you expect in a partnership.

What is still worrying me?

A few things. Firstly, the crunch on hiring and retaining staff. There is a bidding war for talent between employers, and this is a zero-sum game. We need the border to open as proposed over 2022 to free up immigration and allow the talent we need to build this country to arrive.

The risk is that, post-COVID and when international travel frees up, much of our young talent will head in the opposite direction. There is pent-up demand for the OE, meaning the talent challenge is far from over. The Accord’s focus on the Construction Skills Strategy, workforce diversity, reform of vocational education (RoVE) and apprenticeship initiatives are pushing hard in addressing this challenge.

Directly related is the constrained product and materials supply chain. It’s a global phenomenon, but we don’t make it easy for ourselves. Much of our manufacturing capacity has been offshored, so maybe it’s time to reflect on the relative strengths and weaknesses of globalisation and understand New Zealand’s economic resilience.

I also worry about the safety of our people, the diversity of our workforce, the impact we have on the environment, driving carbon reduction, how we support profitable high-performing innovative businesses. That’s where the Accord refresh kicks in – Construction Sector Accord 2.0.

Plan for Construction Sector Accord 2.0 What does that mean come mid-2022 when our current transformation plan concludes? We’ve identified five core areas for the new plan – people, planet, progress, procurement and crisis response.

  • People – more diverse leadership and governance, more focus on the Māori construction ecosystem, focus on change through peer learning networks and finishing our work on construction skills strategy and workforce diversity.
  • Planet – we have just finished an Environment Roadmap for the sector with a focus on reducing carbon emissions through innovation in advanced materials, products and practices.
  • Progress – lifting R&D/innovation and simplifying regulatory settings and consenting. This will also complete work started on the building consent process. Watch this space.
  • Procurement – a focus on broader outcomes and non-price value by government and the private sector. Procurement is at the heart of many of the issues faced by the sector, with poor risk allocation, poor advice and suppliers signing poor contracts. This area needs constant education and focus.
  • Crisis response – while this is a real strength of the Accord, it would be great to get to ‘transformation as normal’. This means more time and effort getting there at least 70% of the time, and that means prioritising.

If you asked me in January 2020 what the Construction Sector Accord meant, I can only imagine what I might have said. My view now is one of hope, fuelled by optimism.

I have seen us come together and achieve some extraordinary things. If we hold to that culture, to true partnership, working with a focus on our problem-solving strength and at pace, then in the words of Sir Ed Hillary, ‘we will knock the bastard off’.

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