The construction industry in Victoria is facing a number of challenges in terms of ensuring builder registration systems and the education and training framework are delivering the best possible outcomes, a respected industry consultant on builder registration processes in the state says.

Refined Project Management client manager Nick Rush outlined a range of areas where he said practices and outcomes could be improved.

In terms of education, Rush – a former Building Registration Consultant at the Housing Industry Association who has consulted with around 2,000 applicants on builder registration issues in Victoria – said the system could be improved by addressing inconsistencies between what is taught during training and what builders need to know on the ground.

In Certificate IV courses, for example, Rush would like to see contractual and legislative requirements of builders covered in much greater depth. He also believes these courses should cover dispute resolution, a subject which is taught elsewhere but has been replaced in Victoria with another called ‘planning your business.’

“I think there are certainly issues with the training packages that are available to prospective tradespeople and builders at the moment,” Rush said. “The training packages and registration system don’t work hand in hand and I believe there are gaps in learning outcomes between what is taught in the national framework for building courses and what the requirements are of builders in the real world.”

“I think there is a large gap between what is available with regard to training and what tradespeople are required to know on a building site.”

Rush’s comments, which relate primarily to Victoria, come amid a period of upheaval in building industry regulation in the state after the new Victoria Building Authority replaced the former Building Commission of Victoria last year.

Thus far, Rush says these particular reforms have not had a big impact upon building registration processes – changes are anticipated this year but details have not been released – but a tightening of systems has delivered some improvement at a more general level.

Asked about ‘pain points’ within the current system, Rush says previous arrangements whereby anybody could apply and get to the interview stage created frustration for assessors in cases where some applicants were reaching this stage who lacked understanding of basic building concepts and terminology. That situation has fortunately now become less common following the introduction of a pre-screening multiple choice test.

Rush also says there has been uncertainty about the requirements needed to get a licence. While building regulations stipulate a minimum of three years of full-time experience relevant to the licence category in question, this is not stated on the application form. As a result, it is possible for applicants who do not meet the requirements spending time and money compiling their application simply to have the application turned down.

When asked about the recent proliferation of Registered Training Organisations (RTOs) around the country and the challenges this poses in terms of maintaining quality training outcomes, Rush said a major issue revolves around getting quality trainers with sufficient experience and teaching aptitude. He says that poses particular challenges for regional areas and adds the issue may lead to cases where people teaching certain subjects do not have the skills to be doing so.

He says the challenge is to get trainers who have not only the right technical background but also the ability to teach effectively.

“If there are people that are qualified to do it (teach relevant building subjects), that’s great, but they just might not have the teaching skills to be able to sit in front of a class of twenty people with varying capacities of literacy and numeracy and adequately teach them a text that they are unfamiliar with,” he said. “So it’s not only a knowledge of the subject matter they might be lacking. It’s a lack of teaching ability that they might be lacking in as well. It’s twofold.”