Peter Barda

The Australian Construction Industry Forum is on the hunt for a new executive director, with Peter Barda announcing his retirement from the position.

Mr Barda has been executive director of the organisation for the past eight years, and will be winding up his role in early December so he can spend more time on his farm in the Hunter Valley looking after 600 vines, 100 fruit trees and the “1800 girlfriends” who live in his and his wife’s three beehives.

“I plan on becoming a dab hand at making beeswax furniture polish,” he said.

Mr Barda commenced his career in the building industry as a construction lawyer, and was also chief executive of the Building Industry Specialist Contractors Organisation of Australia, the Property Council of Australia, the Commonwealth Government Construction Industry Development Agency, and the Master Builders Association of NSW.

Among the biggest changes he has seen in the industry since he entered it in the 1970s are the growing focus on sustainability, and also the specific emphasis on reducing waste and energy efficiency.

“That is absolutely positive; it is a really welcome thing,” he said.

However, the growth in the size of contracts from being “around an inch thick to being a filing cabinet”, he said, was a negative thing. It showed a lack of trust.

“There is a straight line relationship between the size of the contract [documents] and trust.”

The role of technology in facilitating smarter planning, smarter design and better organisation has also been a positive trend.

Technology is also something he sees as one of the “two big jobs” that going forward the industry needs to tackle.

“There needs to be a cultural change in adopting new technology. The tools are there, and they are terrific and simple. But we need more collaborative workplaces [to make the most of them]. And that comes down to clients and how they put their teams together,” Mr Barda said.

The second big job is addressing the skills shortage he said would emerge over the next 10-15 years, with the age of people in the industry increasing, as well as the dropout rate of apprentices.

“We are not thinking enough about what we will be building over the next 10-15 years and how we are going to make sure we have the right skilled people in the industry for that,” Mr Barda said.

He said the industry needed to look at how it trained people in the necessary skills, and how to make working in the industry more attractive, particularly to older workers, women and also to young people “who think, ‘Oh, that’s just all too hard.’”

“It comes down to how we attract people, and how we treat our people. I think we have to treat them not as human resources but as people.

“I am a bit disappointed I haven’t seen that happen yet.”

The ACIF Board is seeking expressions of interest from suitably experienced industry professionals, to take up the reins of leadership. For further information, email .