By Shivendra Kumar, Principal Consultant, Shivendra & Co
This week, the Federal Government announced its appointment of 12 representatives to the National Construction Industry Forum, in an effort to address critical industry challenges. The chosen conclave, however, raises questions about which voices get a say, and whether excluding vital segments of the industry will hinder real progress.
The National Construction Industry forum’s establishment is a direct outcome of the 2022 Jobs and Skills Summit, signalling the government's commitment to proactively addressing the ongoing challenges faced by the construction industry.
On the surface, this appears great news for the industry. The forum will seek to tackle those critical issues that continue to impede the sector, including safety, skills and training, productivity, industry culture, diversity, and gender equity.
But while the chosen representatives are individuals who are highly regarded and well respected within the industry, I have significant concerns about the forum’s lack of inclusivity and representation of critical industry players.
Notably absent from the appointed representatives are voices from small to mid-sized construction businesses, including civil/infrastructure-related contractors and businesses with less than $200 million in revenue. Moreover, there’s an absence of professional services firms, particularly engineering and construction consultants.
These entities form a substantial portion of the construction industry and play a vital role in its overall ecosystem. Small to medium-sized construction businesses comprise most of the industry in terms of organisations and influence of change.
Considering the Federal Government’s recent adjustment to the Commonwealth Procurement Rules to assist small to medium enterprises, it’s interesting they have now been excluded from the conversation.
The needs of these businesses differ to those represented. Without their perspectives, how can we address industry-wide challenges?
The last thing we want to see is a significant portion of the industry being forced to comply with burdensome policy changes made without their input. Addressing the complex issues that face the industry won’t be as simple as more requirements to operate a business, or additional items to comply with when responding to tenders.
Furthermore, the forum’s absence of industry associations representing women in the construction sector raises concerns about its commitment to gender equity.
While there is commendable representation of women in the appointed representatives, the industry associations dedicated to empowering and advocating for women in the sector are nowhere to be found.
Without these voices, this forum is merely an exercise in futility.
I wonder – will there be forums for input from segments of the industry this assembly has failed to capture?
These could include associations such as Consult Australia, Civil Contractors Federation National, the National Association of Women in Construction and Engineers Australia.
The success of this forum relies on providing all stakeholders from the public and private sectors with the opportunity to shape the dialogue, and, in turn, shape the future. Merely relying on policies won't suffice for an industry that is people-centric and includes a vast ecosystem of small to mid-sized businesses.
Involving all stakeholders from the ground-up will provide valuable insights into the challenges facing the industry and create a stronger sense of unity across the sector.
The government should take immediate action to reconsider the forum’s composition and incorporate the voices of those who have not been represented.
Shivendra is available for comment on the above, and other infrastructure-related topics.
Shivendra Kumar is availble for interview, contact:
0477 770 141