Stuart has been representing workers in the building, construction and firefighting industries for over thirty years. A lifelong interest in politics and industrial relations began at a young age and stemmed from dinner-table conversation centred around his Father’s role as Northern Area Chairman of British Actors Equity in the 1960s-70s.
Born in England, Stuart emigrated to Australia when he was 16. In addition to a passion for industrial relations and fair work practices, Stuart inherited a love of theatre and magic from his actor/magician parents.
Over the past three decades Stuart has seen many changes across both the firefighting and construction industries, brought about mainly through advances in technology. While technology has enhanced safety and capabilities across both sectors, particularly in relation to equipment and clothing, it is in the construction industry that Stuart expects the most gains are yet to be realised.
“The construction industry in Australia has been slow to adapt to new technology when compared to some places in the world such as the US and Japan, but the changes over the next 15-20 years will be significant. Some of the manual handling and heavy lifting has been replaced by machinery so we are seeing fewer injuries cause by handling, however, there is still so much that can be done to improve safety, productivity and efficiency.
“It’s Important that training keeps up with advancing technology as some of the workforce will be displaced and potentially become operators of machinery and automation. However, they will still need to have a proper understanding of the building basics.
“Traditional trade training will always be needed, but construction training and education across the sector will evolve to increasingly include the use of new technologies.
“The curriculum will need to change over time, but we should be considering what these changes may be, given the time it takes to review and implement. New skills and capabilities around the use of technology around the use of technology may add to or sit alongside the existing skillsets required in the building and construction industries.
“As the use of new technology increases, the mix (of traditional and new skills) will have to be adjusted as the requirement for manual labour skills decreases and manufacturing of building materials and use of technology on-site becomes more and more sophisticated.”
Stuart believes that demand for a highly skilled construction workforce will continue to grow, but the increased use of drones, automation, robots, mechanics and other machinery will create new jobs and skills and result in some displacement, diversification and even more specialisation.
“We need to be clever about how we teach our future workforce.”
When he isn’t contemplating the future of the construction industry workforce, Stuart enjoys spending time on weekends with friends, family, riding motorbikes and following his favourite football teams, the Penrith Panthers or Western Sydney Wanderers.