Forecasts indicate huge work levels for next few years

Registered Master Builders Association chief executive David Kelly

Following several difficult years in the construction industry, the level of building in many parts of the country has lifted in residential and commercial construction.

Not surprisingly, in some areas that has resulted in a shortage of experienced skilled staff. That is nothing new for people who have been in the industry for a while.

Recent public comments by the Prime Minister and Minister for Building and Housing Nick Smith have referred to the unprecedented level of construction work — in the residential and commercial sectors — that New Zealand will be seeing over the next few years.

They have also referred to the significant number of jobs being created.

Forecasts indicate that the amount of work will continue to grow and remain at record high levels for the next few years.


Information useful for forward planning

That information will be useful for residential and commercial builders in order to plan for the next few years — but it also raises the question again about where we attract and retain the people with the skills the industry needs.

The good news is that the forecasts for the next few years should provide confidence for people thinking about a career in the construction industry, and also for business owners thinking about expanding their business and taking on more staff.

However, the challenge is that the gap between what we currently have and what we will need is going to be significant.

When we add to the equation the number of people who leave the industry for various reasons, including retirement, that challenge could be huge.

And it cuts across all parts of the industry, from design to construction, to supply, to supporting businesses.

This is probably the biggest issue we will face over the next few years. It will involve a mixture of responses, including attracting and training new workers, retaining existing staff, targeting skilled migrants and new ways of working.

It also raises the question about whether we are training people with the right skills, given the increased fragmentation of residential construction.

While it is a big challenge, it is also a great opportunity for the industry to work with government on the solutions.

I expect this will be one of the hot topics that will be discussed at the Constructive industry forum in Christchurch on September 22.

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