In this series of reports, Cranes and Lifting speaks to each of the CICA state chairman to discuss the challenges they face over the next 12 months. The first interview is with Jeff Wilson, chairman of CICA NSW.
Jeff Wilson has been an active member of the crane industry for 25 years. When he first started working with the association, it was the NSW Crane Owners Association. Back then, CICA was the national organisation, and New South Wales, Queensland and Victoria had their own state branches. Then, Wilson was the vice chairman of the NSW Association for approximately 10 years.
“Six years ago, we embarked on the journey to become one association. I sat on the panel as the NSW representative to work through the various processes. In early 2018, took over the chairman’s role in a caretaker capacity and have remained in the role ever since,” said Wilson.
“I’m enjoying my tenure and the role very much. The key is having good people around you and, for me, that’s the executive committee. It meets before every meeting where we discuss the issues and what we need to do as an association. These really are my right-hand people who greatly assist in getting things done.
“The signs for the next 12 months are a little mixed. I think the signs for our members in NSW are fairly positive, there is still a pipeline of major works to come, but a lot of this work is waiting for funding. There are developers wanting to develop but the banks aren’t readily releasing funding due to the findings of the Banking Royal Commission. This is putting pressure on the NSW construction sector and on crane companies in particular. Because there isn’t as much work, they are having to manage their financial affairs accordingly,” said Wilson.
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There are other challenges ahead says Wilson.
This includes the upcoming Enterprise Bargaining Agreement (EBA) negotiations which according to Wilson is always an “interesting and challenging” process.
According to Wilson, roadability is a major issue for all the states, and while it is improving, there’s still more improvement required. Part of this will include NSW members learning to participate in the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator (NHVR) permit system which also requires councils coming on board and a better understanding of the portal’s functionality.
Meetings and forums have been well attended throughout this year, but there’s still work to be done, according to Wilson. Over the next 12 months, they are focussing on the small to medium-sized crane companies that play a key role in the industry and will actively look to engage and encourage far greater participation from those companies.
“John March, the vice chairman and I will be calling a number of these companies and asking for their feedback in terms of what CICA is doing well for the smaller operators and what we need to be doing better. Once we understand their issues and their priorities, we can then formulate some strategy around these for the year ahead,” said Wilson.
The industry’s ageing demographic is the front and central issue for NSW, as it is with all states.
“Another key focus is to continue the positive work we’ve been doing on the traineeship program and we’re looking to reinforce the value of the program by implementing a trainee awards night in conjunction with a Gala Dinner/Christmas party. The traineeship program has been bubbling along for a number of years without a high degree of up take,” said Wilson.
Wilson added that more effort was put into the program in 2019 and they had 20 trainees positioned in companies this year which he considers to be a huge success. Moving forward, they intend to build on this momentum over the coming year. They plan to develop and expand the programme because it is a key issue for the industry with the crane industry having an ageing demographic, and a lot of people are getting closer to retirement.
“Like a lot of skilled labour industries, there’s a massive skills shortage and we need to invest in trainees,” he said.
“The branches are here to help, and we will do whatever we can for our members. As the chairman of NSW, I think the best way to get things done is to share the workload among a team of volunteers rather than ‘load up’ one or two individuals. This way, the association work gets done without detracting too much from our day jobs. We’ve also pushed some of the workload back to CICA which has full time employees who are there to help us as well.
“It’s been a wonderful collaboration between the branch and CICA, Heidi does a phenomenal job in terms of rallying the troops and getting members to meetings. We will continue to build member participation and initiatives can be as simple as asking members to ‘bring a buddy’ who might be interested in what’s going on,” said Wilson.
“The executive is made up of crane owners and also marketers to the crane industry. The main objective is for there to be more communication about our activities including the meetings which will total between six and eight throughout the year,” he added.
“We are especially pleased with with the regional meetings and what was generated in Newcastle – $40,000 plus for charity was phenomenal,” said Wilson.
Meetings in Sydney are evening events and take place on the first Wednesday of the month. The regional meeting is a full day event where they invite several guest speakers. The day is followed by a dinner and a charity auction. The regional meeting rotates from area to area and has been held in places like Bathurst, Canberra and Newcastle.
“We generally choose regional centres where we think most regional members are likely to attend,” said Wilson.