Between corporate collapses, strikes and overall weak conditions surrounding Victoria’s building and construction industry in recent months, those outside the industry could be forgiven for thinking that building might not be an ideal sector in which to work right now.
Such thinking, however, would be dead wrong according to those in the industry.
A recent survey of 800 registered building practitioners (RBPs) across Victoria revealed that the majority were highly satisfied with their occupation and that most want to stay in the game for a long time, with pride in the finished product being the most rewarding part of the industry.
Interestingly, the survey revealed that there are many similarities between how builders see themselves and how, according to a related survey, consumers in the same state see the industry. Both builders and consumers reported positive impressions of the industry, valuing sustainable building and saying they generally experience few problems throughout the building process.
While the survey, conducted by the state’s Building Commission, pertained only to building practitioners in Victoria, some of the findings may well apply to those in other states.
The following 10 underlying themes emerged from the survey results:
1) Builders love their job.
The survey indicated that building practitioners throughout Victoria continued to be highly satisfied with their jobs.
Overall, RBPs reported a job satisfaction rate of 7.8 out of 10. While that was down from 8.0 in the same survey one year ago, it still indicates high overall levels of fulfilment.
Domestic builders recorded the highest satisfaction levels (87 per cent), while commercial builders (79 per cent) and building surveyors (76 per cent) were also highly satisfied with their occupations.
2) Pride in work is most important.
While survey participants nominated work environment, teamwork, variety of work, remuneration and job mobility as significant factors in occupational satisfaction, pride in finished work was far and away the most important factor with more than nine out of 10 listing this as an essential element in deriving fulfilment from their work.
3) Builders hate government paperwork.
On the flip side, it seems that more than anything else, practitioners hate dealing with red tape.
Regulatory requirements were listed as the most unlikeable part of working in the industry, followed by long working hours, peaks/troughs/variability in demand, poor occupational health and safety practices, poor financial rewards, payment issues and disputes with owners.
4) Builders are mildly confident about their own future.
While practitioners are pessimistic about the broader economy over the next two years, they are generally optimistic about their own prospects.
Although 72 per cent expect the economic environment to deteriorate or stay the same in the next two years, 73 per cent of survey respondents say their own business profitability has either stayed the same or increased over the past two years and 80 per cent expect profits to increase or stay the same between now and 2014.
5) Builders want to stay in the game.
High levels of satisfaction are feeding into positive rates of industry retention.
A whopping 84 per cent of those surveyed say they expect to remain in the industry for at least the next five years, with retirement being the most common reason for wanting to leave the industry.
6) Builders have to keep up-to-date.
With 72 per cent of registered building practitioners rating continuing professional development (CPD) as important in the ability to practice as an RBP, and all building surveyors and around three quarters of domestic builders (78 per cent) and commercial builders (75 per cent) saying they have participated in some form of CPD activity over the past year, builders in Victoria remain committed to keeping their skills up-to-date.
Being better informed and more knowledgeable as well as understanding technology and relevant legislation were listed as the main benefits of CPD. Industry conferences – as opposed to TAFE courses, other technical education opportunities and business skills courses – are by far the most common CPD forum.
7) Builders ‘get’ sustainable building.
One of the key areas where builders have upgraded their knowledge is in sustainable building.
Around six in 10 practitioners surveyed believe they have a thorough knowledge of sustainable building options, with informed reading being by far the most common method of keeping up-to-date in this area.
8) Builders value their registration.
Practitioners surveyed placed a high degree of importance on the value of their registration.
On a scale of one to ten, builders on average rank the value of being a registered builder at 8.6., with credibility among clients and colleagues ranking as the most distinctive benefit, followed by availability of industry information, self-esteem, professional development opportunities, knowledge of OH&S and networking opportunities.
9) Builders are innovative and aware of technology.
Builders in Victoria remain open to adopting technology and evolving practices to meet changing times.
A whopping 94 per cent of survey respondents report having made some change to their practices to allow for innovation in their business in the last five years. Meanwhile, 97 per cent use computers in their business.
10) Builders have few problems.
All in all, builders throughout Victoria report that projects run smoothly and are relatively trouble free, with 74 per cent of registered building practitioners reporting no significant problems during any part of the building process in the last 12 months.
When problems did occur, they generally revolved around issues related to contract or scope of work, withholding payment or quality of work. These problems generally cost less than $5,000 to resolve (69 per cent of cases); and were resolved within six months.
Direct discussion was the most common method of resolving disputes while 31 per cent of cases involved the use of a lawyer.