C&L, CICA, Cranes & Lifting

Change abounds, but is it in the right areas?

Driving the need for high-risk licensing change and skills development needs to be a priority for CICA and the industry at large.

The issue of licensing and skill development is ongoing and CICA continues to be front and centre in the push for changes in the High-Risk license system, along with supporting all states and territories on their quest for permanent, annual trainee or apprenticeship structures and intakes.

Safe Work Australia has recently recommended a review of the national Workplace Health and Safety Laws and specifically refers to a review of the High-Risk license structure. With this review to commence later in 2020, CICA is poised to be heavily involved in making recommendations in the CN, C2, C6, C1 and CO categories. This allows us first-hand access to influence tighter scrutiny in the issuing of a High-Risk license along with specific assessment criteria for each endorsement.

I can’t help but express my disdain with the High-Risk License system. A system which offers a dogging license (DG) in two weeks, teaches totally new concepts to candidates during this time; and then assesses their practical and theoretical application in an environment where it’s impossible to fail. This then places the burden on small/medium businesses to verify the candidates’ competence before they perform any activity they were just assessed as competent to receive their High-Risk license in the first place.

We have all witnessed the rapid change in our industry in recent years. Levels of compliance which were in previous years isolated to “Tier One” contractors are noticeably being adopted deeper into our client bases. Those who opt to compete in these markets need to come to terms with this momentum and adapt their internal cultures to match, or fear losing their competitive advantage.  But we need our workforces adequately equipped to take this journey with us.

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As we strive to modernise our businesses with the latest machinery acquisitions, the best IT systems along with automated timekeeping and invoicing programs, we are still unable to progress in the area of licensing and skill development at the pace required to keep up with current industry expectations.  Through many hundreds of hours of volunteering from our members and continuous effort by our permanent CICA staff, we are only part of the way toward successfully nurturing a traineeship or apprenticeship in all states and territories.

Trainee or apprentice programs are not yet consistently running across all states and territories, however in Victoria, 2019 saw the first 8 trainees in almost twenty years, with a further 10 to commence in February 2020 and plans for a third intake in mid-2020 for another 10. In NSW, where the traineeship has now been underway for several years, has delivered 13 TAFE graduates, has 22 students currently studying and is set to commence a further 11 trainees in the months ahead.

For a number of reasons, it is CICA’s position that the current High-Risk Licensing system is grossly inadequate in delivering to industry the correct level of skills. Through the formalised structured learning applied in a traineeship/apprenticeship environment, candidates must log hours, they must demonstrate their competence and they must attain endorsements progressively, throughout their training period.  This is the only logical path which will deliver a workforce adequately prepared to perform high-risk activities.

With our movement toward a structured system of some form, whether it be a traineeship or apprenticeship in each state, we have chosen to support differences in each precinct due to varying localised idiosyncrasies.  The most important outcome however, is the pleasing result that we have now gained a consensus with all industry stakeholders, nationwide, that the issues particular to our industry ranging from age demographic through to new entrant skill deficiencies undoubtedly require a structured training system in the form of a traineeship or apprenticeship to enable the progression our sector needs.

Skill deficiency issues that arise through a High-Risk license system are well noted.  The age demographic and our construction industries’ ageing workforce continues to attract attention as the attrition rate of mature/experienced workers is not being adequately replenished with the skills required from new entrants.  It is now an accepted fact that parts of our industry are witnessing a growing percentage of its workforce in the 55-year plus category at levels far greater than other segments of the economy.  Specifically, in the construction industry, according to the National Law Review, the shift has moved relatively quickly in the last decade, now with more than 22 per cent in the 55 year plus category, up from 17 per cent in 2011, and this continues to climb rapidly.

So, our dilemma is immediate. On one hand, our crane hirers are experiencing an aging workforce who hold high levels of skill and experience, but who may find adapting to the rapid progress and pace of our market changes difficult.  Whereas, on the other hand, we are not yet able to inject the volume of younger entrants with the correct skill development to replace those retiring.  We all must be mindful of the impact an ageing workforce will have on our hire businesses.  The basic question is; can we teach our old dogs some new tricks?  The short answer is, we must; at least until we have a system capable of supplementing our workforces with new, skilled workers.   

From all of us at CICA, I can assure industry that we are committed to pursuing improvement in this space with vigour and your association will not stop until we have regular, annual trainee or apprentice intakes in all states and territories.  We are grateful for the exceptional efforts of many who have helped us deliver the training structures we now have, but we are also mindful we are only a small portion of the way to deliver a permanent, nationwide industry solution on this very important issue.

Please take the time, if possible, to attend your state branch meeting to keep in touch with local issues and developments, and be sure to save the dates this coming October for our annual conference to be held in the newly developed Perth Convention Centre, our premium annual event for information sharing and networking.

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