View from a deck

There is a saying in the construction industry that the sooner you finish a project, the sooner you are looking for a project. So as the BER limps to a conclusion there are quite a few people becoming available in the job hunting marketplace. But although we hear of labour/skill shortages, the construction sector is pretty flat. So unless you have experience in resources or civil works, finding a new job is going to prove difficult.

All my recent offers are based in mine sites, so that is why I am writing this from my deck staring out acrosss to Brisbane airport, cogitating the next move. Do I really want to go to a remote spot, live in a donga, to get lots of money that I don’t really need, with no mortgage, debts of any kind and a credit card balance of zero what is the point? Also, mines are not like buildings. The mine’s lifetime is exactly that – a lifetime, whereas buildings start and finish, and each day there is progression, not just a bigger hole in the ground.

The Trainee

I went out to purchase a new phone today. For the last six months I had a iPhone supplied to me but now due to a change of plan I needed to buy one. I did my homework and worked out what plan I needed.

So it boiled down to Optus, Vodaphone or Virgin to suit my useage per month. So off we go to Chermside. I did not realize the brats were off school, it was nutters day and all those who did not get on the Biggest Loser were grazing through the shopping center. Why do people have to eat and drink whilst they walk around the shops, careful Meldrew is trying to emerge.

Anyway first stop Virgin.  After queuing to see one of only two assistants in a shop full of people wanting to be assisted, the child behind the counter stared at me blankly when I asked about tethering. When I asked her about the details of the monthly plan she was so startled she stopped chewing her gum. Thanks but no thanks.

Next stop Vodafail sorry Vodaphone. The young lady met my eyes as I walked in with the kind of look that was making me think about just giving her the credit card and let her do whatever she wanted. The last time I had that feeling was last Easter in Dubai but we shall not go there. The illusion was shattered when she spoke.  I thought give her a chance, she can not be as dumb as she speaks. But she was. She thought tethering was a security device to stop someone stealing your laptop.

So finally on to Optus. I entered the shop with much trepidation as I have never been a fan of Optus. There were half a dozen people browsing and four assistants assisting. The youngest of which headed my way. Tall male about 19 years old with the classic vacant look. I was reconsidering Optus when I spied his nametag “Trainee” Now I know some parents have a penchant for strange names but this was a new one. On inquiring “Dan” had lost several nametags and his manager was making him wear one signifying his rank not his name. Perhaps the manager was ex ADF. So Dan he asked me could he help and I thought this will be a joke. But no, he new the phones inside out, he understood the plans and answered every query. So I purchased an iPhone on a contract from Optus. The whole transaction from walking in to the shop to walking out with my purchases took twenty minutes. Thanks Dan

Boots or Suits

Or should it be suits in boots? The only time you see a suit on a construction site is when there is a visit by the client and then only if they are bringing along someone from the bank. This was a common site in the heady days of mezzanine financing, sales off the plan and the general white shoe samba seen in many Australian CBDs. Traditionally we had blue collar workers, who did the real work, and white collar staff who mainly argued about contracts and dollars.
One of my standard questions when interviewing younger staff is to ask them who is the most important person on the project. Standard answers range from the obsequious “You are Mr gerrydir”, through “The Architect”, “The Client” etc. I then tell him it is the person with the hammer in his hand and our job is to make sure we give him the nails to hammer into the timber we provide, bought at the right price and delivered at the correct time. These young future project mangers look at me in disbelief. Especially as their background and sense of entitlement is a million miles from that guy with the hammer in his hand. They are the fruit of private school and university education who chose a construction degree because a) they like construction or b) their OP was so low it was the only course available to them. You can ponder and decide which one for yourselves.

But, I have been fortunate to have spent equal amount of time in the boots on site and in the suit in the CBD tower. I now have to choose one or the other. In the past it was easy as if you are a competent boots and all PM the sooner you get your project completed and handed over, the sooner you are looking for a new project. Whereas in the suit situation your career longevity is determined by how you fit in to the bloody organization and where there are more reptiles than Sydney Zoo.

So all will be revealed and the choice of suit or boot is immenent – watch this space

The Passion

Those of us who spend their working days in the construction industry have to deal with some issues that make us question whether it is all worth it. Just consider, clients, contracts, inclement weather, subcontractors, health and safety, environment, margins, consultants, greenies, unions, local authorities, the list goes on. If I walk into a jewellery store to purchase a bracelet for my dear wife, I chose what I want, pay for it before I leave the shop and the money is in the shop keeper’s bank account before the bracelet is on my wife’s wrist. The jeweller’s margin is around 40%, the rain does not affect him. If I suggested to him that I would pay him in a month, deduct 10% retention, reduce his payment based on my QS dodgy valuation and left the shop with the good, he would not seek adjudication he would call the police. Yet we run projects on margins less than 5%, have 10% retention, and argue for months about variations.
But I know why we do it. Simply we have a passion for construction.

Site Manager or Child Care Worker

These two jobs seem to be poles apart, but are they. One deals with precocious, demanding, over fed, disorganized rabble, the other looks after young children. Hang on that is too harsh we shouldn’t call the little darlings rabble as they are the workforce with trained in construction skills. Also paid about three tikes more than a child care worker. The child care worker is only a surrogate parent.

Little brother in the workplace

We all know that whatever we type into our work PC can be viewed by someone who “manages” the system. But sometimes spending a dollar to save ten cents just does not get through the thick skull of a company bean counter. The majority of people do not aimlessly surf the net, update facebook or tweet endlessly during the working day. Because most people are simply too busy. Yet the obsession for security and spying on workers has lead some bosses to spend large amount of time checking to see if their staff are wasting time. Those who engage in this spying sit in their offices basking in the power they think they have, when in reality everyone is laughing at their sad behaviour. So do you know one of these sad souls?

Blogging for Newbies

It has not been as straightforward as I thought it would be this blogging business. Having sent almost 2,000 tweets I thought, mistakingly, that setting up a blog would be a piece of cake. I have managed construcction projects up to 60 levels and had mega sites with 7,000 workers, worked with all types of software, but for some reason WordPress had be pulling out what little hair I have left. Lets not go into and Anyway it is starting to take shape. I have “fed” off two very experienced bloggers messrs Hildebrand and Reich hoping they won’t mind as I want to bring some other views than my own into play. And after watching Insiders tonight on Narcissism I have to be a bit more humble, not quite Uriah Heap but on that trajectory.

Building the Education Revolution

Ok so I completed 16 schools in 16 months is no big deal but the real issue is did this program provide stimulus to those companys that needed it. In a word No. The big companies that “managed” the process did very well, the schools got buildings they cannot afford to staff or maintain, but the grass root subcontractors were screwed down on price, forced to carry out work below cost, messed around on variation payments etc etc. It seems strange that we are faced with a grim federal budget after the proliferation of BER spending.