In March this year, during the early stages of the COVID-19 crisis, Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced that ‘every business must rethink their business model’. Before March, most businesses would never have imagined a crisis which would force them to change the way they work practically overnight. But as the months go on and we start to adapt, we are discovering that this new way of working might actually be with us for the long term.
The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted businesses in different ways, ranging from minimal to catastrophic. Australia’s responses to contain the virus and stimulate the economy have triggered drastic shifts in consumer confidence and behaviour, and may impact supply chains in ways yet to be realised. It is likely this period will reshape our business and employment practices permanently.
This impetus to reflect on our business models inevitably leads to an assessment of finances, customers and supply chains. One of the most significant concerns for business will be how to strategically respond to this environmental change. Change is often feared, in particular for its impact on employees, and for this reason deferred – even if it leads to less favourable business outcomes.
Businesses which provide education, professional development and support for staff during a period of change will have a greater chance of being able to navigate the current shifting business environment. Embedding a culture of continuous learning will not only help support the current wave of change but will help to weather the future as well. Retraining and upskilling provide businesses with the best chance at getting ahead of these changes. Adapting and improving upon employees’ skills is a critical component of building business-model resilience in a post-pandemic era.
History tells us, following past crises, companies that act quickly to build up the capabilities of their workforce will be more successful at ensuring their business recovery is a success. The lesson here is that for a company to be resilient, their workforce needs to be prepared.
At age 87, Michelangelo was quoted as saying ‘I’m still learning’. Despite his significant body of work, Michelangelo was still sculpting six days before his death. Continuous learning allows people to reach their full potential and avoid stagnation.
What is continuous learning?
It motivates and improves competencies, and develops skill sets. As businesses determine their strategy for the new environment, a culture of continuous learning will help to identify gaps in skills and knowledge, improve their position and drive it forward.
We all remember that school teacher who inspired us. More likely it was because they instilled in us a love of learning, demonstrating an infectious passion for their subject matter. So many young people rely on a start in the construction industry through an apprenticeship and it is likely that one day they could be that teacher.
Getting a start
Rino Pesaturo of PesBuild and a HIA Apprentice Host has this advice for those entering the industry: ‘Be prepared to continue your development and continually upskill after your apprenticeship, one day you will be mentoring others’.
While on-the-job experience is an accepted part of an apprenticeship, it is the bond between the host employer, and the support of mentoring and off-the job-training such as those provided through HIA’s Group Training, which will inspire a culture of continuous learning in those who are just starting out in the industry.
If there’s one thing the pandemic has shown us, there is no such thing as certainty. It has prompted many people to review their career choices and head back to the classroom. Some estimates claim that over the six-month period during the crisis, we will have gained about one billion hours of time, presenting an opportunity for the motivated to retrain and upskill.
Developing core skills
A move to remote working has accelerated the importance of digital skills. Construction Skills Queensland (CSQ) recently introduced funding for 11 online learning modules, including digital skills, targeted at small business. The HIA-CSQ Small Business Program is being delivered until September and registrations can be made any time until then.
Also popular has been the Australian Government’s Digital Champions program which HIA has been able to offer free to HIA members. Including a webinar series and a range of handy guides, the program covers social media, digital marketing, software and hardware guides, and information about cyber security.
For those among us who might be thinking of gaining a more formal qualification, the Diploma or Certificate IV in Building and Construction are the most common pathways to becoming a fully licensed builder. Students in a Certificate IV may also choose to specialise in Contract Admin or Site Management. While face-to-face training is gradually getting back to normal in many areas, the take up in online training has increased during the pandemic, allowing students to go at their own pace from their home or office.
Richard Branson once said, ‘My biggest motivation? Just to keep challenging myself. I see life almost like one long University education that I never had – everyday I’m learning something new.’ It might sound ambitious, but developing a goal to learn something every day is achievable and need not always be through formal courses. Experts suggest you can accomplish this by scheduling reading time, building a network of go-to experts to ask questions, joining an association and being involved in networking, or learning through teaching others.
In business, particularly in the current climate, it is important to remain up-to-date, relevant and adaptable. Builders find short courses covering topics, such as contract administration or building code updates, useful ways to update skills.