New board member and new diversified focus for CICA

Karli Sutherland was recently appointed to The Crane Industry Council of Australia (CICA). Karli and husband Jarrod have been operating Quicklift Crane and Access Hire for 24 years. Karli explains more about the business, her reasons for joining the board and her expectations for the recently formed Diversity Network Committee.

“I’ve worked in our business alongside Jarrod for the past 24 years. I work across the management/administration of our business, OHS & HR in particular with a keen focus on our staff culture

“We have approximately 35 staff – a combination of full-time and casuals

“We have six staff in the office and the remainder are involved in the operational side of the business and are out on site with a combination of operators, doggers and riggers.

“We are a general crane hire company, working across a number of industry sectors including construction, particularly warehouses and factories throughout the Goulburn Valley region in Victoria,” said Karli.

Karli goes on to discuss how she became involved in CICA and her ideas for the Diversity Network Committee. 

“During the COVID pandemic I contacted CICA CEO, Brandon Hitch, wanting to initiate some sort of forum that would bring together different people within our industry. 

“The idea was to attract people that were not necessarily working on the operational side of businesses, but more on the business side, including the administration of a crane business. 

“We are a relatively small industry, but I feel that all too often, crane businesses are trying to reinvent the wheel when there’s no need. 

“I felt that a forum involving networking outside of the National Conference would bring people together who could share information and experiences, from different capacities and from different aspects of industry.

“These were my initial thoughts, and Brandon suggested that we had put together a group of people to initiate the concept. It has since evolved into what’s is now known as the Diversity Network Committee,” said Karli.

The Diversity Network Committee was formed 12 months ago, with Karli as the Chair. 

Still in its infancy, the committee is looking at different initiatives based on information gathered from a recent survey of CICA members.

“More recently, I had a conversation with Paul Arztenhofer, Membership and Business Development for CICA and he asked if I might be interested in being nominated for the CICA board.

Sophie, Karli and Justina at the CICA Conference and Exhibtion

“My motivations for representing our industry on the board are not so much around the technical and operational side of the industry, as these issues are well represented by board members. 

“I hope I can bring to the board a crane owners’ perspective and in doing so encourage other crane owners to share their experiences on operating and managing a crane business. 

“I would like to share with people the experiences and the lessons Jarrod and I have learned in the 24 years we have been involved in the crane industry. In turn I hope to  learn from other ‘crane people’ operating and running their own crane businesses,” said Karli.

“I find it very interesting discussing with other people how they operate their businesses, because we can all improve no matter how great we are at our job or how fabulous our business is. There’s always room for improvement,” she said.

All crane hire businesses face various challenges, but essentially the challenges are similar challenges. And it’s not just in the crane sector, it’s inherent in every business says Karli. 

She goes on to discuss the aims and objectives for the Diversity Networking Committee and how she sees the various committee members working together.

“The aims and objectives of the committee continue to evolve, and we are going to be tackling issues which will hopefully help to improve our industry. The committee is not just about networking and sharing of information, we will be examining our businesses and looking at ways to improve efficiencies.

“The crane industry is not a very diverse industry, and it is obviously male dominated. We will examine ways to make the industry more attractive to these underrepresented groups and in particular to women. We all face the challenge of managing an ageing work force and we want to find ways of making the industry more attractive to the younger generations. The average age of crane operators is 44 years – which is higher than other physical jobs. The age bracket of 45-54 has the highest share of almost 28 per cent,” said Karli.

“In our business, we have guys with upwards of 20 years experience operating cranes and there is no substitute for that experience. But the crane manufacturers are continually evolving the technology in cranes and the computer systems are becoming increasingly advanced. 

“We are finding that some of our operators struggle with this new technology and so we are ‘pairing’ our experienced operators with younger operators as doggers/riggers to assist if required. This younger generation has the computer skills, they come out of school having had computers in their hands from a very young age.

“I use computers every day, but I don’t have anywhere near the knowledge these kids have. I think this is something we should be looking at as an industry, we should look at mentors, champions of our industry that have huge amounts of knowledge and pair them with the younger generation to pass on the knowledge they have accrued over the years.

“So, I see the committee working on a number of issues and initiatives to address the fact that jobs in our industry are not attractive to these minority groups. We have a major skills shortage, which is escalating  and currently we’re all trying to pull from the same ‘work force pool’ all of the time,” said Karli. 

The CICA National Conference and Exhibition was the ideal opportunity for Diversity Networking Committee members to meet in person.

“We are obviously made up of a group of people from all over Australia and the conference saw the largest representation of committee members come face to face which was great. We were fortunate to have Sarah Toase CEO for CANZ join our meeting. “Sarah shared with us how the New Zealand  crane sector is working to attract people into their industry. They too are experiencing a skills shortage. Sarah explained to our committee the campaign they are running with great success to encourage minority groups into the NZ Crane Industry. It was great to catch up face to face especially after years of COVID enforced Zoom meetings,” said Karli.

This feature first appeared in Cranes and Lifting.

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