The Master Plumbers and Gasfitters Association of WA has been engaging with key stakeholders at the state and federal level with our 'Building on Solid Foundations' campaign for higher standards in the building and construction sector.
The reforms we are seeking
To support public health and safety, we have identified a number of key sector-wide reform opportunities, including
- Stronger enforcement of the National Construction Code (NCC) with serious penalties for non-compliance
- Mandatory Continuing Professional Development training for each trade
- Improving the standard of theoretical and practical apprentice training
- Refining the focus of the Plumbers Licensing Board to target unlicensed operators, and
- Introducing mandatory the WaterMark Certification Scheme at point of sale
The stakeholders we are engaged with
In recent months we have met with decision-makers, leaders and regulators, including
- Minister for Education and Training Sue Ellery
- Office of the Deputy Premier Roger Cook
- Office of the Minister for Mines Bill Johnston
- Office of the Federal Minister for Industry Ed Husic
- Department of Training Workforce Development
- Department of Health
- Construction Training Fund
- Training Advisory Council
- Building and Energy, Department of Mines, Industry Regulation and Safety
- WA Opposition
What has emerged from our discussions
Agreement on the need to lift the standard of building and construction in WA
The Master Plumbers and Gasfitters Association of WA received strong support for our reform proposals and advocacy efforts to date, including from the Minister for Education and Training, Sue Ellery.
Overall, there is clear agreement among the stakeholders we engaged with about the need for broad reform of training, licensing, and compliance monitoring in WA, including through implementation of the recommendations in the Shergold and Weir Building Confidence report.
We were encouraged by the number of stakeholders who asked to receive regular progress updates as we continue to engage widely on these issues, and connected us with appropriate contacts to discuss options for implementation.
We found particular support from stakeholders in the education and training space, who evidently share our strong commitment to improving the standard of apprentice training in WA.
Resourcing and national reform process identified as key barriers
Multiple stakeholders indicated that resourcing constraints were a major barrier to reform efforts.
Many acknowledged that the regulator, the Department of Mines, Industry Regulation and Safety, has ultimate responsibility for driving many aspects of construction sector reform but is working through other priorities.
This includes the recent move to register building engineers (as recommended in the Building Confidence report), which the Master Plumbers and Gasfitters Association of WA has welcomed.
The newly established Building Consultative Committee was identified as a key channel to address issues around security of payment and the current ‘race to the bottom’ on pricing
However, the pace of reform at the federal level was also identified as a constraint, with stakeholders displaying limited appetite for WA to take a leadership role on issues with a national reform process underway.
The national process reached a milestone on 26 August 2022 when Commonwealth, state and territory Building Ministers met and confirmed that NCC 2022 will commence on 1 May 2023, with a transition period to 1 October 2023 for the Modern Homes provisions for energy efficiency, condensation mitigation and livable (accessible) housing. Ministers also agreed that NCC 2022 will be available from 1 October 2022 for those who wish to use the new provisions.
However, due to WA’s legislated 12-month additional transitional period, the NCC 2022 is likely to be adopted in WA on 1 May 2024. You can read the Building Ministers’ Meeting communique here.
Lack of plumbing bridging courses available for skilled migrants in WA
With skills and labour shortages the top of the agenda, stakeholders we met with were particularly interested to understand the current challenges around licensing for skilled migrants. Many were surprised that there are very few options in WA (TAFE included) that offer skills gap training for migrants with prior qualifications in plumbing.
Despite skills and labour shortages across all trades, migrants arriving in WA with overseas plumbing qualifications often need to travel to Queensland to undertake the skills gap training necessary to obtain a license. It is also not good enough that there is no clear pathway or website available for migrants to find out relevant information if they are looking to migrate to WA and work in the industry.
Members wishing to employ an overseas trained plumber are encouraged to access the Skilled Migrant Employment Register, which is a free initiative intended to help build the WA workforce. We have been told there are training providers in WA who are prepared to deliver bridging courses for skilled migrants when demand grows to the level required for viable class sizes.
Our advocacy for construction sector reform is only just beginning. The next steps in our campaign include
- Ongoing engagement with key stakeholders at the federal and state level
- Continuing to represent Master Plumbers on WA’s Building Consultative Committee
- Engagement with the Construction Training Council and Department of Training and Workforce Development
From time to time, we will publish more about this campaign activity when there are new developments to report.