Diversity Works New Zealand says that one of the biggest challenges facing the construction industry is the need for more people and skills, slowing down the pipeline of construction projects.
The agency is the country’s body for workplace diversity, equity, and inclusion. It notes that the sector also lacks diversity. Women comprise only 18% of the workforce, while Māori and Pasifika are underrepresented in skilled professions and leadership roles.
They believe that improving diversity in the workplace could help fill the gap of the needed skilled labor in the industry.
However, some businesses that want to improve their diversity and inclusion need to figure out where to start and worry that they will get it wrong.
Tracey Ryan, Accord Steering Group co-chair and New Zealand Managing Director at Aurecon, says it is vital that the construction industry gets serious about diversity and inclusion.
“We are designing and building complex infrastructure solutions that will impact many generations to come. How can we do that if we, and the teams we form, don’t reflect the diversity of the communities for whom we are providing these solutions? How can we tackle the skills shortages being seen around the world by only tapping into 50 percent of our population?”
She adds, “Put simply, diversity and inclusion are not only providing good social outcomes, they are also a key metric to drive better outcomes for business.”
The construction industry is vital to the New Zealand economy. It’s the nation’s fourth largest employer, with 292,8000 people employed in December 2021, and contributed $18.1 billion in GDP in March 2022. (Stats NZ)
A noticeable trend is emerging when it comes to new workers coming into the industry. Demands for workers since the Christchurch earthquakes in 2011 have seen a rise in Asian workers arriving in the country. In Auckland, the number of Asians tripled over six years from 7,800 in 2013 to 24,000 in 2019 due to the demands for construction workers (Construction workforce, n.d.)
The influx of non-native English speakers in the industry means that businesses must change how things are done to quickly help new workers adjust to their workplaces and new settings.
One of the ways that the sector can improve diversity and inclusion in the industry is to help non-native English speakers understand the training modules better by offering the training in the worker’s native tongue.
Some businesses may ask why we must do that since the work is based in an English-speaking country. While this is true, companies should also consider the following:
What if delivering the training in the learner’s native language could save their lives, avoid accidents because they understand the training better, and lower training costs by decreasing delivery time and due to learners returning to their jobs faster?
The article on the Training Industry shows that when training is conducted in the learner’s native language, they can understand it more quickly. Also, training using the learner’s native tongue shortens training time compared to when conducted in English because trainers have to do it more slowly to ensure comprehension.
This delays workers getting to their jobs and increases costs to the company, especially if training needs to be repeated due to many work-related incidents.
Industrial Safety News reports on the first mental health and suicide prevention training conducted in the Filipino language. The article says Filipino workers are not very vocal during the English-spoken training, but they were more engaged in the conversation when it was conducted in their language. In New Zealand, the construction industry has a solid Filipino presence.
Field Officer Ronald Tuano delivered MATES in Construction New Zealand’s first Tagalog General Awareness Training. “While it was only our first Tagalog attempt, the training was more effective in getting the message across,” Tuano says.
James Whitworth, Project Manager on Bracewell’s Ponsonby site, was proud to have MATES on site, saying, “Having the training delivered in Tagalog shows that we are serious about cultural diversity and the well-being of all cultures on our sites.”
The article shows case studies in the US where training was done in the worker’s native language in various industries, including construction.
Results show that it has improved workers’ efficiency and has significantly reduced job accidents and injuries because language and cultural barriers that are contributing factors were addressed.
Diversity Roadmap for the Construction Sector. (2022, July 4). Diversity Works New Zealand. Retrieved from https://diversityworksnz.org.nz/news-resources/news/diversity-roadmap-for-the-construction-sector/
Casey, M. (2017, August). Why You Should Be Offering Training In Other Languages. Training Industry. Retrieved from https://trainingindustry.com/magazine/july-aug-2017/why-you-should-be-offering-training-in-other-languages/
Construction workforce demographics. (n.d.) Sweet Analytics. Retrieved from https://sweetanalytics.co.nz/content/construction-workforce-demographics/
Diversity On Programme: The Construction Industry… Deconstructed. (2023, January 23). The Ice House. Retrieved from https://www.theicehouse.co.nz/blog/diversity-on-programme-the-construction-industry-deconstructed
Tagalog safety training a success. (2023, May 5). Industrial Safety News. Retrieved from https://www.safetynews.co.nz/tagalog-safety-training-success/