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A business owner employed 52 new people…but lost 54 to poaching.
This was just one of the questions discussed at the Constructive NZ Construction Forum in Rotorua yesterday, led by the Master Builders Association.
Skilled labor shortages, staff retention and health and wellness were discussed by expert panelists in front of industry members.
These are some of the key findings from the State of the Industry commissioned by Registered Master Builders which revealed that escalating costs, supply chain disruption and skills shortages were the top three challenges facing the sector was facing.
Registered Master Builders Association chief executive David Kelly said there was a war for talent and the shortage of skilled labor was a concern.
‘Someone told me yesterday that they hired 52 new people and lost 54. It’s poaching and it’s not just the money – it’s the way you you take care of them. It is therefore a fairly important conversation that this sustainability. ”
However, Kelly said it was reassuring to see the number of apprentices “increasing and more respondents taking on new apprentices than ever before”.
Russell Group of Companies chief executive Brett Russell said the big thing in the market right now was uncertainty and that was causing anxiety.
He said he was trying to give people reassurance and confidence ”that we’re going to get through this”.
“I think we’ve been through most of that. At the moment, there are still challenges there, but we’re pretty resilient, but most of us will be fine. ”
Russell said career paths were important ”and not just the dollar” and ”we also offer things outside of work”.
However, he noticed that his apprentices were approached by others during about the third year of their apprenticeship.
Naylor Love’s managing director of people and culture, Pam McGarry, said over the next 12 months it needed 100 additional staff.
In the past six months, he had hired 157. His board and management team had discussed retention strategies and what Naylor Love could do.
“All about retention is that a person needs to feel like they have that sense of belonging. In fact, a few employees were approached and offered a fairly large raise.
”They stayed. Where we asked them the reasons why they said it was the culture. The culture of belonging and being nurtured and developed is more important than money.”
It was family-oriented, had an open-door policy and provided wellness umbrellas within teams.
Hawkins North Regional Manager John Abercrombie said it was important to talk about how to maintain a sustainable workforce.
“We look at career development, communicate the career growth plan, and we run a few programs, including our cadet program.”
Hawkins had eight positions available but, to put it into context, Abercrombie said he had 90 new start-ups but to counter that the company had lost 45 employees.
In March, he was part of a small cohort that traveled to the UK and interviewed over 50 candidates. Offers were made to 25 via a 12-month work visa, but “it was difficult”.
According to him, immigration “keeps the wheels turning and we are still in dialogue with them at the moment but it is a slow process”.
Sentinel Homes Waikato General Manager Nate Alley said it’s time to take ownership of the industry and look in the mirror when it comes to building strong, healthy teams and retaining staff .
“We have to ask ourselves some tough questions about the things we’re talking about doing for our teams. Do we actually do them and what does it look like in practice?
“They’ll see through you if you don’t and they’ll leave if you don’t do something about it.”
He said the goal was to help people become better people.
“It’s things like emotional intelligence, leadership, communications – things that aren’t necessarily directly in the role but will continue to make them better by default.”
There were now three positions open.
National Opposition Leader Christopher Luxon jokingly told the crowd: “Well, aloha everyone. Welcome to Honolulu.
“It’s great to be here with you all, I’m actually in Rotorua a bit closer to Te Puke and will be with the Kiwis later today.”
More seriously, he wanted to outline National’s plan to unleash the New Zealand economy and the crucial role construction would play.
He made a point of highlighting the remarkable contribution of the construction sector to the country’s economy.
”You employ nearly 300,000 people and contributed nearly 9% of New Zealand’s GDP last year, or around $30 billion. One in eight New Zealand businesses work in construction in one form or another.
Luxon said the sector had seen a post-Covid boom with a record 50,000 consents for new talent housing for the year to February, but “I know it hasn’t been smooth sailing.”
“As an industry, you have been hit with labor shortages and material shortages. And now the economy is coming off the heights of monetary and fiscal stimulus with the potential for significant consequences for the construction sector. ”
Luxon said if elected next year he would inherit “a big mess and have a big turnaround job to do”. But he came with gifts.
He told emcee Jehan Casinader and members of the public, when asked about certain topics, that he wanted to extend the apprenticeship program, that he wanted to eliminate delays in the consent process and ease immigration to allow entry of more skilled workers.
Opinions of manufacturers
The NZME spoke to construction business owners who attended the national forum and asked if there is poaching in the industry and how they retain good staff.
John Street, New Plymouth
”It would be a fairly fair comment to say that there is poaching. Staff retention is a major issue and people will leave for 50 cents or $1, it’s crazy. Retaining apprentices is also a challenge. They go into their time for two or three years and decide to probably move on to silver hunting, which is very disappointing. Over the years, I have trained 60 to 80 people. We do our best to create the best working environment for them. We are quite passionate about treating people well. We are very passionate about treating people and family matters well.”
Paul O’Brien, Dominion Builders, Auckland
“It definitely is. We have more work in the industry than we have the capacity to cover. There is a war of talents and we find some, especially for our young cadets. When they come out of the program and have a few years of experience, they suddenly become very attractive to some competitors. Some people left and came back because it’s not always greener elsewhere. I also think that some people are put into roles but aren’t competent enough for them. We try to see other things for our staff and the culture of the company is really important.”
Nigel Benton, Benton Ltd, Auckland
”We haven’t really lost anyone as we take care of the ones we have. It’s about encouraging them and teaching them what we know from our years in the industry. It is a question of transmitting it to the new generations which arrive. I think you will always drive people away. I mean, I did my apprenticeship in a company and you move to gain experience.”
Richard Johnston, Merged Builders, Dunedin
”It’s very easy to lose a talent, because people are approached all the time, in all sorts of different ways. Linked In is one of the classics, you know, our staff being approached all the time. We just lost a young man in Australia. It can be quite disastrous for your business if you lose them as they can be very difficult to replace. You have to try to get them to come to work and work with them. You must be a good employer.”
Nation Stats Survey Highlights
* The key issues are escalating with a growing proportion of industry participants reporting escalating costs, supply chain disruption and skills shortages as the top three challenges facing the industry.
· Skill shortages are still among the top five critical challenges, but a record number of industry participants surveyed said they are hiring new apprentices.
· While 79% of industry participants say the economy will deteriorate over the next 12 months, signs of underlying resilience exist, with only 31% of builders believing their own businesses will be worse off.
· Homeowners share this optimism, with 45% saying they would recommend building in the current environment.