Shedding light on capacity in civil construction


by Chris Melham, Managing Director, Civil Contractors Federation (CCF) National

In May/June 2022, the National Federation of Civil Contractors (CCF) undertook a national survey of its members to better understand the skills and capacity challenges facing the civil infrastructure sector to ensure that the CCF can respond appropriately at the national level.

The CCF Infrastructure Market Capacity Survey was undertaken against the backdrop of an increasingly unstable international economy which is impacting the national economy, including higher input prices and a shortage of materials. The CCF also undertook the survey at a time of unprecedented growth in infrastructure projects at the federal, state and local levels.

The results of the survey will be provided to the Federal Government, including its independent adviser Infrastructure Australia, which is currently developing its second Market Capacity Report, due for publication later this year.

The CCF online survey, which was conducted in each state and territory, focused on obtaining industry data in three key areas:

♦ The market capacity of the civil construction industry
♦ The ability of the civil construction industry to undertake additional projects now and in the future
♦ Any resource constraints affecting civil construction companies

Resize, not shrink

The results of the survey are interesting to read. They confirm that more than half of the companies surveyed could accept additional work and that more than three quarters of the companies could “evolve” to cope with additional work within six months.

To maximize this capacity, however, governments need to bring more small to medium-sized infrastructure projects to market, including in rural and regional Australia.

“Sizing, not shrinking” and smoothing the infrastructure pipeline are important survey findings. Now more than ever, in light of current market conditions, governments need to unbundle or unbundle large infrastructure projects to facilitate greater participation by tier two and tier three prime contractors.

On this point, the CCF looks forward to working with the new Federal Government on its “Buy Australia Plan”, which recognizes the importance of infrastructure procurement reform to increasing Australia’s sovereign capacity. .

This important policy, which the CCF supported ahead of the election, recognizes the economic benefits of breaking large contracts where possible to allow Tier Two, Three, Four and smaller SMEs to bid for tenders. civil infrastructure. This is consistent with the findings of the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Infrastructure, Transportation and Cities report, Government Procurement: A Sovereign Security Imperative.

The survey also revealed that rising prices are a growing concern for the industry, reinforcing CCF’s argument that the industry should not be expected to bear a disproportionate burden of unavoidable price increases. CCF believes that there needs to be greater collaboration between industry and government so that both parties assume a proportionate level of risk.

The survey also highlighted concerns about bureaucracy, such as slow environmental approvals, as a major concern for the industry, and hampering efforts to address a growing infrastructure pipeline.

Skill shortage is the number one problem

However, the most important finding of the survey related to the availability of skilled tradespeople and professionals. Respondents were asked to rank a number of threats to the completion of infrastructure projects, ranging from the availability of products such as precast concrete products and sand or quarry products, to the availability of labor skilled and unskilled labour.

In every state and territory, the most significant issue was the availability of local skilled tradespeople and professionals to undertake construction projects. This finding clearly shows that urgent action is needed in a number of key areas.

Currently, civilian employers, apprentices and VET providers are significantly disadvantaged as they continue to be left out of federal government skills and training programs. Civilian occupations need to be accurately reflected in the Australian New Zealand Standard Classification of Occupations (ANZSCO), which is an important step towards addressing skills issues.

This will allow civilian professions to be included in the Australian Apprenticeship Priority List and therefore eligible for funding under the Australian Apprenticeship Incentives Scheme. Action in this area is an essential first step in tackling the looming skills crisis in the civil construction industry.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics is currently reviewing ANZSCO, including a targeted update of construction-related trades. This provides a great opportunity to improve the accuracy and coverage of how these occupations are described in ANZSCO, which in turn will support industry efforts to attract, retain and develop the future workforce. industry work.

Action needed now

However, failure to act will impact industry’s ability to effectively deliver Australia’s growing civil infrastructure pipeline, including our roads, railways, bridges, pipelines, drainage, ports and services. public.

More generally, the findings of the CCF survey underscore the need for closer engagement and collaboration between industry and governments to address ongoing infrastructure investments and policy reforms.

As such, CCF will continue to push for a federally-led infrastructure advisory body to provide a place at the table for industry and government to work together to address the many challenges facing the sector. is facing, including procurement reform, rising material costs, skills shortages and efficient delivery of Australia’s infrastructure pipeline.

From CCF’s perspective, a first element of activity for this advisory body should be an analysis of the results of the CCF’s infrastructure market capacity survey and the development of strategies to help, not hinder, the sector’s ability to contribute to Australia’s economic growth and capacity.

The CCF Infrastructure Market Capacity Survey is available on the CCF website


Comments are closed.