Building business skills and reputation
Registered Master Builders (RMB) Waikato has created a mentoring programme designed to bridge the knowledge gap between newly qualified and experienced builders, as an investment in the future of the construction industry
Registered Master Builders Regional Service Manager for the Waikato Russell Court and RMB Waikato President Dan Fenwick have been running a cadet membership programme in the Waikato since early 2017, garnering the support of many other RMB presidents around the country.
“We saw a gap in the learning process between builders finishing their apprenticeship and those more experienced,” said Fenwick. “There’s a high percentage of builders who come out of their training and move straight into starting their own business, where there’s a high chance they’ll come up against some big challenges they’re unprepared for.”
Russell Court, who first thought of the programme after seeing many fall victim to these challenges, says that owning a business and dealing with clients isn’t necessarily taught during most apprenticeship programmes, leaving many new business owners out in the deep.
This is even more true now with Covid-19 throwing up challenges for the construction industry which may force some young builders into going out on their own earlier than they may have planned.
“There are a lot of young, talented tradesman, who do not have the support of a mentor, past employer, or knowledgeable family member, who can assist them through the steps required to survive the first three years of being in business in the building industry.
“However, Master Builders is well placed to facilitate a development programme that mentors the young talent to become professional business owners and industry leaders,” said Court.
The Waikato programme is run through a cadet membership that provides access to support across the national Master Builders network, such as guidance and advice from a Regional Service Manager and mentor, access to the Master Builders online training portal Elevate, and information on contract law, accountancy, health and safety and other imperatives in business.
To join the programme, cadets must apply and meet certain requirements. These include:
- Having a trade qualification in carpentry.
- Passing a ‘quality of workmanship’ evaluation on two projects.
- Having registered or shown they can register their own company.
- Showing strong attendance at local membership committees and RMB events.
- Having the intention of becoming a RMB.
Each cadet is assigned a mentor with preference being given to their previous RMB employer.
“It’s best if the cadet’s mentor is someone who taught them previously, but we acknowledge that not everyone makes a good mentor,” says Court.
“Fortunately, we have many great Registered Master Builders keen to get involved with the programme and do their part in educating the younger talent coming through our ranks.”
Each year, as part of the two-year programme, a cadet will have three face-to-face sit-downs with their mentor and up to four visits a year from the Regional Services Manager. These involve going over their progress toward a provisional or full RMB membership, and a chance for the mentor to provide advice and guidance.
“The face-to-face meetings between mentor and mentee provide the opportunity for cadets to pick their mentor’s brain, discuss what they can improve on or learn, and ensure they’re meeting the criteria for their membership,” said Court.
Passing on the wisdom
Court and Fenwick say that the motivating factor for mentors participating in the programme is two-fold.
“Every mentor understands the importance of the Master Builder reputation to their business and the standard of the wider industry. For nearly every mentor, this is also an opportunity to play a bigger part in having an impact on the future of the industry,” said Court.
“Our industry is aging and has a shortage of young, skilled workers coming on board, so it’s more important than ever to invest in those who are committed and will carry the torch moving forward.”
Demonstrating the value of the programme are two cadets who have recently finished their two-year journey.
“They improved by leaps and bounds,” said Court. “Comparing them at the start of the journey to today, the difference is night and day. We’re confident in their ability to go forward on their own venture and establish themselves in the region.”
With more cadets currently in the programme, both Fenwick and Court are looking forward to further results and are hoping to see the programme implemented nationally.
“We’re proud to see positive results and good feedback from both mentors and cadets,” said Fenwick. “It’s representative of the good people we have at RMB Waikato, but also the ability we have to elevate our own talent and ensure everyone is supported and able to contribute to their full capabilities.”