The time for change is now and we need to target our efforts to achieve this!
That was the key take away from the Australian Constructors Association’s (ACA) annual Board Strategy Day that was held last week. If we get this right, we can help rebuild the economy while moving the entire sector to a more sustainable future. We have the vision and the will, and it involves collaboration and leadership.
As the only representative body for contractors delivering vertical and horizontal construction as well as providing construction services, we recognise the vital role we play in supporting the sustainability of the sector. With that in mind, we are dedicated to creating an industry where all levels of industry thrive. The notion of different tiers of contractors needs to become a thing of the past. We are one industry and we will have more chance of achieving real and lasting change if we all work collaboratively to achieve it.
Going forward, it was agreed that ACA should focus on undertaking initiatives in partnership with government and industry that will accelerate progress towards strengthening the three pillars of a sustainable industry, or more particularly:
- improving the health and wellbeing of the workforce,
- building industry capacity, capability and skills, and
- ensuring greater use of equitable and aligned commercial frameworks to deliver projects.
Instrumental to our strategy is ACA’s partnership with the governments of New South Wales and Victoria through the Construction Industry Leadership Forum and Construction Industry Culture Taskforce. This partnership could be expanded to involve other jurisdictions and key industry stakeholders.
Construction Industry Leadership Forum
The Construction Industry Leadership Forum (CILF) has aligned on a number of initiatives for the year ahead that will target significant reform in how projects are procured and delivered whilst seeking to build industry capability and capacity.
These initiatives are:
Value for money: Redefining value for money and developing performance measures to enable benchmarking of project outcomes.
The value for money initiative will endeavour to develop a framework to enable assessment of value for money beyond existing time and cost considerations. Designed to avoid tender processes that encourage a ‘race to the bottom’ the framework will seek to value non cost components such sustainability, culture, local content and development of workforce capability and capacity. This initiative will also investigate ways to measure and benchmark outcomes in all these areas.
Procurement reform: Improving collaboration across projects and through selection of appropriate commercial frameworks.
The Procurement Reform initiative aims to develop guidance on project packaging and selection of appropriate commercial frameworks that increase industry collaboration during the procurement and delivery of infrastructure projects. This will also include investigation of opportunities to harmonise procurement / delivery processes and contract forms across delivery agencies and jurisdictions.
Capability and capacity: Developing leaders and enhancing the capability, capacity and attractiveness of the industry.
The capability and capacity initiative will develop and implement strategies to improve project leadership training for both client and contractor teams focused on managing complex projects. It will also develop guidance on the effective administration of the procurement process to improve in house capability and capacity within the public and private sectors.
Construction Industry Culture Taskforce
The wellbeing of people employed in the construction industry must be a key priority for governments and industry stakeholders alike. This requires a holistic approach and, if managed appropriately, will improve the productivity, attractiveness and retention rates of the construction industry.
To help support the ongoing sustainability of the industry including its workforce, their families and their communities, the Construction Industry Culture Taskforce (CICT) will soon release a draft culture standard for consultation.
The culture standard focuses on three key areas—wellbeing, time for life and diversity. It recognises the challenges of long work hours and the need for people working in our industry to have adequate time to rest and pursue life activities outside of work. It also recognises the struggle to attract and retain a diverse range of people to the industry. This impacts on productivity, and the industry’s capability and capacity to deliver projects.
Greater focus on implementing sustained changes to address diversity inhibitors is a key focus of the culture standard. All industry stakeholders will be encouraged to support this cultural shift by adopting the standard as part of procurement requirements whenever they buy construction services.
Progress since the 2016 Australian Infrastructure Plan
As previously mentioned, change will require collaboration and leadership.
This month we welcomed the release of Infrastructure Australia’s report on progress made since the 2016 Australian Infrastructure Plan. The report highlights the urgent need for the Federal Government to step up and lead a coordinated reform program. Sporadic progress is not good enough. This is exactly why the Australian Constructors Association has been calling on the Federal Government to take a more active role in influencing the way states buy infrastructure.
A construction playbook is one example of how national reform could be achieved but there are many other ways government can commit us all to drive positive change. Mandating standard forms of contracts, improving risk allocation and embedding a culture standard through the National Partnership Agreement is another option.
Regardless of the actual vehicle, the key to successful reform is collaboration and leadership. The Federal Government needs to work collaboratively with the States and industry to maximise the value of its investment in infrastructure and we have made several visits to Canberra recently in order to emphasise this point.
We can’t stand still and wait for plans to shape up.
We need to keep building momentum and seize the opportunity for a more sustainable industry. Now is the time for change.
I hope you are all on board!
Chief Executive Officer
ACA Board Strategy Day 2021