OSM manufacturing industry survey reveals challenges

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For the offsite manufacturing (OSM) building industry to meet future demand, there needs to be a focus on workforce development and recruitment.

This was one of the key findings to emerge from OffsiteNZ’s industry workforce survey, conducted in partnership with the Ministry of Social Development.

The offsite manufacturing industry has seen unprecedented growth in the past 10 years, with the value of consents having doubled, from 5% to 10% of total consents, according to earlier analysis.

Huge growth opportunities face the industry, as well as career opportunities for those with the right skills.

OffsiteNZ chief executive Scott Fisher says, overall, the survey results solidified much of what industry players already knew, but also presented some surprises.

“Survey respondents appeared confident that the industry faced a bright future but were also realistic about the challenges.”

Respondents highlighted that attracting new talent to the industry, to keep pace with the increase in demand and the workers retiring or leaving it, was a challenge.

A positive revelation was the higher proportion of females in the OSM workforce compared with traditional construction — 25% versus 13%.

“Still there is much room for improvement. The OSM industry needs to be promoted as a fulfilling career option to all demographics to achieve better diversity all round,” Fisher says.

Interviews with a small number of employees working on the shopfloor, also with experience of the traditional building sector, spoke mainly of the advantages of an OSM environment. One positive of personal importance to many was having the space and facilities to get changed and use the toilet.

At a more strategic level, senior managers expressed concern that without positive intervention in workforce development and recruitment, manufacturers could be left unable to fulfil orders, workers becoming overworked and, ultimately, builders and consumers losing confidence in the market.

OffsiteNZ chair Toni Kennerley believes the sector needs to work together, and with Government, to achieve industry success and widespread benefit to New Zealanders.

“It would be helpful if more employers could offer work-based training, which could be government-incentivised in some way,” Kennerley says.

“Continued focus on professional skills training could lead to a clear career progression pathway, which would help attract talent to the industry.

“These survey results support a case for investment and collaboration to achieve benefits in employment, housing and the environment. The Government could therefore do more to incentivise OSM, potentially with contracts, subsidies and tax breaks.

“Supporting the OSM sector means promoting a better future for construction — with high-performance products, reduced waste and lower environmental impact compared with traditional methods.

“OSM is a future-focused and exciting industry.OffsiteNZ is looking forward to working with the sector, and Government, to grow the industry and overcome the challenges ahead,” Kennerley says.

All the key findings of the online survey are available on OffsiteNZ’s web site at
www.offsitenz.com/education-skills-attitudes-survey-2021.

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