Ship to shore: Laying the groundwork for the best infrastructure training in Auckland

Chloe Civil Trades, Energy, Telco, Water

A career in the Royal NZ Navy may not seem like an obvious pathway into a role developing the ongoing training of infrastructure workers, but for Mark Baldock, it’s all about going where the experience takes you.

Mark is the new Auckland Business Development Manager for Connexis, ITO for New Zealand’s infrastructure sector, tasked with growing the level of engagement in industry training within the region, as well as ensuring workforce skills solutions are relevant and effective for companies within the industry.

Mark has already spent five years on the ground with Connexis as a customer service account manager (CSAM) so has extensive knowledge of the full Civil Infrastructure suite of qualifications and workforce skills solutions that are available, as well as understanding the challenges facing employers in terms of recruitment and skills capacity.

Prior to Connexis Mark was in the Royal NZ Navy for 38 years, first at sea as a marine engineer then to a shore-based role running training development teams, overseeing the move into more efficient online-based training. It’s all led him to this crucial role of developing the Auckland workforce capability landscape for Connexis.

“Having been a CSAM I have a good understanding of the roadblocks we face in Auckland and am better armed to deal with them. Auckland’s size and congestion mean it is more difficult for our CSAMs to interact with our customers as frequently as some of the other regions”.

Mark’s focused is on making it easier for Auckland companies to engage with Connexis by meeting them on their own turf to understand their current needs and where they are wanting to grow.  Working with the companies, Mark provides solutions to help advance the capability of their current workforce and assist with recruiting bright, young talent to join the industry and start on their career pathway through apprenticeships.

Mark has found that a lot of the Auckland companies are now looking at how they engage their teams into Civil Trades, a certification process that was launched in 2015.  Civil Trades recognises operators that are highly skilled tradespeople working within Civil Infrastructure. Mark said that those companies currently engaged in Civil Trades understand the value of showcasing team expertise and ability to deliver quality infrastructure when putting in tenders. He said this is now becoming a priority as the government focusses on procurement procedures and tightens up practices to ensure their guidelines are adhered to and that least cost is no longer the key procurement driver.

As Civil Trades is so new to the infrastructure sector, there are likely many employers out there who feel, they’ve managed perfectly well thus far without them; their staff know their jobs, have plenty of practical experience, what difference will a piece of paper make?

But, says Mark, the list of benefits covers almost every area of running a successful infrastructure business.

“Productivity is a key issue within the infrastructure industry, having officially trained and qualified staff improves staff retention and results in less re-work for contractors. On top of improving tender attributes it also raises individuals’ sense of self-worth, promotes better staff morale and engagement”.

But, Mark adds, that challenges in infrastructure training aren’t all down to employers. In the long-term he’d like to see industrywide regulations to back up the qualification process and ensure all workers have the skills and knowledge to complete a job correctly and on time.

He believes that’s not too far away, which means it makes even more sense for companies to start getting their staff qualified now, “to put you ahead of the game”.

Mark sees his role with Connexis as key to helping employers get on board with supporting their staff into training and qualifications.

“My goal is to make Connexis the go-to for infrastructure workforce skills solutions, supporting individuals and companies with career progression planning, and making sure our name is always associated with fit-for-purpose training.

“And in the end, that’s what it’s all about, Mark says.

“I love dealing with the trainees. They come from all areas of life, they have a wealth of knowledge to share and a lot of life skills. One of the best feelings is seeing a trainee complete and get his or her certificate. Seeing the pride and the sense of achievement is a great reward”.

“Often you also see that the qualification can encourage other members of a family to try something new and realise what they too are capable of achieving.”