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Contractor (March 2014) Education, Training and Research

04 Mar 2014

Rob Gaimster
Cement & Concrete Association of New Zealand (CCANZ)

There are many challenges currently facing the concrete industry (and wider building and construction sector), including the issue of investing wisely in education, training and research.

A long term strategy will help establish trust through strengthened relationships, knowledge transfer and innovation stimulus, and in turn create capability as well as advance productivity.

CCANZ EDUCATION AND RESEARCH STRATEGY

With this in mind CCANZ consulted heavily with industry to develop a Tertiary Education and Research Strategy (TERS). Over a 5-year period, the TERS seeks to establish a framework for co-ordinated activities that foster quality concrete industry professionals, and support engineering and architecture graduates, to extend the proficiency of concrete design and construction. Specifically, the TERS will endeavour to:

  • Introduce a targeted education and research strategy aimed at professionals (engineers, architects etc) and academic institutions.
  • Introduce an academic collaboration programme to deliver education projects to support teaching and research.
  • Establish a Research Agenda Committee to align research initiatives with government investment and/or social priorities, and leverage available funding.

TRUST - KEY TO PRODUCTIVITY

At the core of the CCANZ strategy is a drive to enhance trust. It is important to realise that while concrete (and cement) is our industry’s day-to-day concern, customers are ultimately looking to build something that gives them benefit, and which they can trust.

Trust in this sense would be to ensure the customer is confident that the product is economical and was made, delivered and installed by trained personnel to meet the highest standards.
Outside of robust legislation and regulation, as well as the product assurance framework, decisions made by practitioners of other disciplines, such as architects and engineers, have a huge bearing on the end product.

It is imperative therefore that CCANZ reach out, connect with, inform and encourage discussion between these groups.  More so, as the Canterbury Earthquakes Royal Commission recommended that there is scope for further constructive, and early, collaboration between architects and engineers.

ARCHENG WORKSHOP

To this end the CCANZ recently organised the 2013 ArchEng student workshop to encourage aspiring architects and structural engineers to work together to incorporate the best insights and latest technology into a building design.

Building on the inaugural 2012 proof-of-concept event in Wellington, the 2013 ArchEng student workshop was hosted by Auckland University’s School of Architecture.

Working in cross-disciplinary teams of two, the 20 students from across the country gained extra motivation through the $5,000 first prize. The quality of the team’s final design development on a Mt Eden site was outstanding.

The 3-day ArchEng workshop is a large part of the CCANZ drive to engage with early career professionals, and assist in promoting concrete as a premium construction material to the next generation of designers and construction experts.

Visit the CCANZ YouTube channel to watch short presentations on ArchEng 2012 and 2013 - www.youtube.com/user/cementconcrete

SKILLS MAINTENANCE WEBSITE

CCANZ has also recently developed a Skills Maintenance website to assist both industry and early career professionals.

The site has been designed so that once admitted, the learner can enrol in any course they wish, and access the course material, but their course status will not register ‘complete’ until a grade of 9/10 in the quiz has been achieved.

A collection of 8 videos covering the basics of fresh and hardened concrete testing comprises the content of the site’s launch course. This mirrors the CCANZ Concrete Technician’s Fresh and Hardened Concrete Testing day course (for the NZQA modules 26053 and 26063).

The site is not a replacement for the in-person accreditation requirements to achieve the NZQA standards, but it is expected to be a complementary service for their existing training programmes.

These are just two examples of the tactical initiatives being undertaken by CCANZ to achieve the TERS objectives.  In addition, research projects into the acoustic benefits of heavy weight (i.e. concrete) construction in apartment buildings and the data collection possibilities of imbedded sensors in concrete structures will also soon yield results.

ONGOING CHALLENGE

The ageing demographic in senior positions across the building and construction sector, along with the recruitment issues currently faced as part of the Canterbury rebuild are immediate reminders that education, training and research constitute a major strategic issue.

Despite the boom-bust cycle that has historically characterised the construction industry in New Zealand, and which has made investment in people difficult, the CCANZ TERS illustrates the concrete industry’s commitment to addressing this issue.

Article appeared in Contractor magazine.