What Does 2023 Have in Store for our Sector?

Likely continued focus on climate change…

MBIE’s Building for Climate Change initiatives look to be expanding. The Ministry initially signalled changes relating to embodied carbon and then, at the end of 2022, changes relating to operational carbon and reduced waste. This provided an initial focus on Module A carbon (product and construction emissions) and an extension into Module B carbon (operational emissions). It is only natural that MBIE now takes the next logical step of focusing on Modules C (end-of-life emissions) and D (benefits and loads beyond the system boundary) to ensure the full life cycle of carbon is accounted for. This will be a welcome change, as the focus on Module A only tells the carbon story at one point in time (i.e. Cradle to Construction), and we need to get to Cradle to Cradle to Cradle if we are to achieve net carbon reductions for intergenerational wellbeing.

Workforce development

The reforms of vocational education promised a greater voice for industry and transformation of vocational education. The workforce Development Councils were the entities in the reforms established to provide that voice. In 2023 we should be able to measure and articulate some of the transformation that the WDCs are offering.

I also think we are long overdue on some of the uncomfortable conversations around greater diversity and inclusion being translated into (also overdue) actions. We have a skills crisis and we have to make the industry more attractive to a range of people if we are going to be able to address the challenge. This requires some dramatic changes in terms of the maturity of those discussions and actions. We need to quickly get past the initial discomfort of those discussions and accept we have to do something in practice. If the statement, “A critical skills shortage in the manufacturing and engineering sectors is set to grow by 38% to 40,000 workers by 2028 if immediate action is not taken, according to a new government study”* doesn’t incite action, many participants are not likely to survive the pressures arising from the lack of skilled labour.

Industry transformation: What will HERA be doing in 2023?

From a project perspective we will of course be busy with our key research – in particular kickstarting the first year of our Construction 4.0 transformation Endeavour Fund Research. This will include establishment of an Industry Advisory Group, construction4.0hub, PhD scholarship selections, and, most importantly, making headway in the key research programs and themes.

Our structural systems team will be carrying out several steel research panel projects which will be focused on achieving earthquake resilience in buildings, improving seismic and structural fire performance in steel, developing design tools and composite beam software, updates to HERA Reports R4-133 (Corrosion and Coatings), and a state-of-the-art review of carbon sequestration.

Our welding team will be equally busy building on the amazing work it has done this year in Industry 4.0 offerings, innovation, training and research into welded connections, seismic performance, and similar.

We will commence our participation in the SOMAC research project in Australia as a key research partner (https://somaccrc.com).

Twenty twenty-three will also will see our next HERA Future Forum conference in Ōtautahi Christchurch on May 5 with a key theme of ‘next generation leadership’ to help our industry better adapt to and respond to the constant change around us. The past year saw a lot of geopolitical volatility, technological disruptions, economic and political uncertainty, a ramp-up in climate change initiatives, and a growing social conscience. We expect 2023 and beyond to also experience this and more, which is why a focus on next generation leadership is so important!

* https://www.hangaarorau.nz/latest-news/critical-industry-skills-shortage-set-to-grow-by-38-in-six-years/

Dr Troy Coyle brings more than 20 years’ experience in innovation management across a range of industries including materials science, medical radiation physics, biotechnology, sustainable building products, renewable energy and steel. She is a scientist with a PhD (University of NSW) with training in journalism and communications.