Meeting the Water skills challenge

benstevens News, Water

The renewal of ageing infrastructure is one of the biggest challenges facing the 3 Waters over the next 30 years. With an investment in the region of $45.2 billion planned in the next 15 years alone, construction activity will soon be at an all-time high in the sector. So too will the demand for competent, qualified people to carry out this work. With this in mind, there really is no better opportunity to ensure we have the people we need now and in the future.

The role of Civil Trades
The launch of Civil Trades at the end of 2015 (and the roll out of the associated qualifications in Utilities Maintenance and Pipe Installations) has the potential to transform the Water Reticulation sector.

For the very first time, Water Reticulation is recognised as a formal trade with a standardised, clearly identifiable benchmark of excellence. This will play a huge part in raising standards of workmanship and increasing consistency across the sector. Using competent, qualified staff see asset owners, ratepayers and the industry itself benefit from better value for money, improved quality, increased longevity of assets, less rework, and improved health and safety.

There are currently more than 400 people working towards qualifications with a view to becoming Civil Trades Certified, including 200 in Pipe Installations and Utilities Maintenance. Industry uptake has been steady but encouraging, and employers who have embraced Civil Trades have done so passionately. A key focus for Connexis in the year ahead will be to continue to work closely with industry to increase the momentum and uptake of Civil Trades.

Skills recognition for the existing workforce

The initial phase of the Civil Trades rollout has concentrated on people already employed in the industry. The focus has been on candidates with five or more years of experience who are eligible to become Civil Trades Certified through Recognition of Current Competence (RCC), ensuring that those with existing skills are adequately recognised.

Connexis is also offering individuals who hold expiring qualifications in Water Reticulation and Infrastructure Pipelaying the opportunity to upgrade to the new Utilities Maintenance and Pipe Installations qualifications. This will enable previously qualified, skilled workers to maintain a current qualification and be eligible for Civil Trades Certification. Candidates wishing to upgrade can cross-credit units from the qualifications already held, meaning they usually only need to complete a few units rather than starting the whole qualification from scratch.

Water as an attractive career option
The introduction of Civil Trades will also enable the Water Reticulation sector to attract high calibre new entrants to the industry with a recognised trade and a career pathway. The second phase of Civil Trades will focus on attracting and upskilling new entrants, and is very timely. At the end of last year the Government announced its target of 50,000 people in apprenticeships by 2020 while at the same time Connexis launched a suite of New Zealand Apprenticeships for Civil Infrastructure, which can lead to Civil Trades Certification.

Civil Trades and the civil contract process
We have recently entered year two of a five-year plan for the full integration of Civil Trades into the Civil Contract process. By 2020 we expect that Civil Trades will be embedded into Local Government tender attributes. This five-year window will give contractors time to engage and qualify staff in the Level 4 qualifications and apply for Civil Trades Certification.

Connexis is presently working on informing Local Authorities on the change in qualification names and levels. The National Certificates in Water Reticulation and Infrastructure Pipelaying were specified in many contracts for those people working on, connecting to, and maintaining council owned reticulation mains. Over the coming year we will be advising Local Authorities on how they can amend their contract requirements to reflect the new qualifications.

Next steps
Connexis is committed to working with the 3 Waters to meet the skills challenge. We will be working on initiatives aimed at people working at all levels of the industry – from trades through to professional/technical roles.

In addition to the ongoing promotion of Civil Trades, Connexis will also be rolling out our brand new suite of Water and Wastewater qualifications, which have been developed in close consultation with the 3 Waters Industry. We are also partnering with Water New Zealand and the Water Industry Operations Group to relaunch a new, improved Water Industry Professionals Association (WIPA) Continuing Professional Development regime.

We strongly encourage you to get on board, and look forward to working with you.

David Worsnop, CEO, Connexis