Representing The National in a local way
The Civil Contractors Federation (CCF) grew out of the Australian Earthmovers and Road Contractors Federation (AERCF) in Queensland. In the 1990s AERCF realised that it needed to change direction in its focus and representation. Originally the organisation was dedicated to plant hire, earthwork operations and trucking services, but with the changing times they began to redevelop and expand their membership coverage.
By 1995 they had achieved most of this transition and have solidified their relationships across the industry. Now they have a much broader scope, and a more inclusive membership. “Our organisation finally came together as a complete representation from all states and territories in 1995,” says Chris White CEO of the CCF. He became involved in the organisation about eight years ago after spending some time with the CCF in Tasmania, and then moving on to manage the Queensland branch. In 2007 White was appointed as the CEO to the national headquarters.
“It [the CCF] brought together organisations that were state or regionally based that had been in existence for a very long time, under one umbrella and one national organisation, with branches in every state and territory,” says White.
The National office of the CCF is based in Melbourne and administers to all the satellite offices. “We operate and represent the industry as the voice of the civil construction industry, this mission is our purpose in life. We provide services to our membership and we represent their issues and concerns to various levels of decision making across the country,” White says that the branch offices allow them to administer and support their members on a local level, with the national office dealing with universal issues for all the territories.
“The direct relationship between the members and the CCF happens at the branch level,” he says. The membership fees collected give them direct access to the CCF through these branches. It is important that they administer to their members through this model because the rules, regulations and laws differ in each state. “The services in each state generally come under four headings,” he says that these are: “representation – contemporary issues that our members confront that they would need our organisation to act in their behalf.
The second is the provision of education and training. This can either be either direct qualification based training or it could be general professional development through providing our members the opportunity to hear about particular items that might help them develop their business,” says White
The third area is to provide for opportunities for social interaction among the members. Each branch also encourages interfacing between its members by hold a number of functions and events that are designed to foster synergy rather than completion. During these functions the members have equal access to both information and entertainment.
At the national level the CCF has “two banner events every year”. The Annual CCF Conference brings together the members from across the country, and it also serves as a showcase for their other event, the Earth Awards.
“The Earth Awards provides us with the opportunity to recognise excellence in the industry,” says White. This much anticipated annual event has been running for the last 15 years. “The way that it is structured is that projects are nominated by a variety of people including clients, or contractors they worked with,” he says. These nominations are then judged at a state level, those that win at the state level are brought to a separate judging panel at the national level.
Education is an important aspect of what they do and the CCF actively engages its members in a number of ways but also reaches out to the broader base of those involved – and potentially involved with the industry. With schools and institutions they make sure they are engaged with students, ensuring that they have some of the skills and certifications that are required of them to enter into the industry. They also focus on adult students and people already participating workforce. “The full range is covered,” says White. This initiative is fulfilling the needs of the trade area of education- but, he says, the CCF is now looking at ways to integrate their course offerings into both diploma and advanced diploma educational levels.
The floods and natural disasters were tragic but at the same time may promise a windfall of new projects for those involved in the industry. “We really have to look at the details of this when they come out, and then look at how it will all pan out,” says White. The members of the CCF across the country are still in the recovery stages themselves in some ways, especially in the areas affected by the Global Financial Crisis. “It’s patchy around the country; there are a variety of situations. It is also important to note that we do not have a uniform situation across the country.” He does say that there will be opportunities for civil contractors in Australia in the near future, but he is not willing to bet on their shape or form. He also thinks that the mining industry will continue to provide for large projects and the growth of the members of the CCF.
The CCF is plugged into direct government channels as well as the ideas and concerns of its members. White says that they encourage everyone involved in the industry so conduct an open dialogue with them in order to address any issue that may present itself. They have been extremely successful. When the government – State or Federal – devises policy that could have an impact on the industry, the CCF is there to lend its expertise and opinions. Because they are well respected in both the industry and government, they have been extremely adept at influencing policy and guiding it to the needs of the industry as a whole. Membership in the CCF not only allows for the benefit of their support in training, legal counsel, and recognition, but it allows members a direct line to decision and policy makers.