A VOCAL construction industry figure has urged Queensland’s top builders to retain staff by exercising greater duty of care.

Construction Skills Queensland (CSQ) believes staff retention rates would improve if business leaders were more understanding.

CEO Brett Schimming (pictured) reveals emotional and direct commands often prompt an aggressive response from younger Generation Y workers (those born in the 1980s and early 90s).

“These young apprentices and trainees will often pack up and walk off the job, which is not uncommon in the construction industry,” he says.

“It is certainly in the psyche of younger people and broader workforce that it is okay to change careers to suit new needs and conditions without thinking twice about long-term loyalty or commitment.”

Schimming suggests appointing dedicated apprentices and mentors to provide continued support for Gen Y staff and peacefully resolve difficult situations.

“This approach allows employers, apprentices and trainees to realise the difference between what was said and actually intended,” he says.

“It leads to longer retention of staff and people enjoying a far longer career.”

CSQ considers maintaining clear and simple conversation to be one of the most important parts of leadership.

“Be direct and do not try to say it any other way than it is,” says Schimming.

“Encourage senior staff to up-skill, evolve from their post-secondary schooling and transition to less physically demanding – and more administrative or supervisory – roles.”

He believes women are an “underrepresented cohort” in the sector.

“Both at the trade and management professional streams, there is growing awareness of the opportunities for women to become tradespeople and run their own small businesses,” he says.

“Female tradies are not only equally competent to their male counterparts, but also have more patience and attention to detail. Because they are good listeners, customers get what they paid for. It is not solely a man’s world anymore.”

However, the prospect of a female dominated construction industry is less likely.

“More gender diversity will lead to a better finished product, but there is no denying there are certain construction jobs that require a particular level of physical strength – and these are more oriented towards males,” says Schimming.

“The evolution of new technology will always bring a greater role for women to be involved in construction, but the likelihood that women will dominate is the same as males ruling the hairdressing industry.”

CSQ believes the greatest industry challenge continues to be securing a steady line of business.

“Residential and commercial construction sectors are at 30-year lows. Unless your construction business is involved in resources at the Surat, Gladstone or Bowen basins it is very lean times,” says Schimming.

“If you want to be a tier-four contractor, now is the time to prepare. It is not simply a matter of getting work through word of mouth.”

Although mobile text-messaging continues to be a strong platform for industry-wide communication, Schimming believes builders could tap more into the opportunities presented by social media.

“Facebook or Twitter tend not to be the most common vehicles to sell products or services,” he says.

“However, the industry can show it is available for work by using social media to pitch for jobs and projects as well as promote achievements.”

It is too soon for CSQ to judge the impact of the Federal Government’s carbon tax, which took effect on July 1, but Schimming believes the industry should still play a positive role in protecting the environment regardless of the cost.

“It is important the industry does its fair share of being a clean industry and responsible for building practices in reducing waste and other environmental impacts,” he says.

“We are working the builders to use new techniques and building products to reduce our carbon footprint. We have done so for many years without the incentive of offsetting the carbon tax.”

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