Kate Lynch is a shining example of the value women bring to the construction industry; and represents a new generation of leaders in sustainable project delivery. Roads & Infrastructure sits down with the Alex Fraser Project Manager to learn more.
According to the Australian Constructors Association, only 12 per cent of Australia’s construction workforce is female.
Important initiatives, such as the Victorian Government’s ‘Women in Construction Strategy’, as well as the National Association of Women in Construction, are helping to provide platforms for female workers to excel throughout the construction sector.
While there’s much more work to do, organisations within the industry are making progress in attracting more women into the industry and supporting them to maximise their professional growth and career potential.
One such organisation is sustainable construction material provider Alex Fraser.
Along with Hanson Australia, Alex Fraser made a commitment to increase female participation and to develop rewarding career pathways for all employees.
The companies’ Trainee Driver Program for Women is a thriving example of their collective drive for diversity. Established in 2018, the program aims to increase female representation among truck drivers, enabling women with a standard motor vehicle licence to train and upgrade their license to drive heavy rigid vehicles, like concrete trucks and tippers.
It is programs like this along with Hanson’s Graduate Management Development Program, that are helping Alex Fraser to ‘kick-start’ careers for people of all backgrounds, cultures and genders.
Project Manager Kate Lynch, began her career as a graduate, setting her on course to become one of Alex Fraser’s rising stars.
Lynch started with Alex Fraser in 2017, as a Management Trainee, and played a key role in the build of Alex Fraser’s state-of-the-art glass recycling plant in Laverton.
She went on to complete her graduate program, taking on a range of challenging roles in affiliated businesses along the east coast, before returning to Alex Fraser as a Project Manager in 2020.
Ready to take on her next big challenge, the timing could not have been better. Alex Fraser was in the planning stage for its next Green Roads Asphalt Plant, to be collocated onsite with its recycling facility in Epping, Victoria.
As Lynch explains, her initial attraction to the role was born out of a desire to achieve sustainability on a personal level, while being part of something that could make a positive impact.
“When I used to think about sustainability, I’d think about recycling on a small scale. Like recycling my paper, glass, and plastic waste at home, using public transport, and carrying a keep-cup for my coffee,” Lynch says.
“At Alex Fraser, sustainability is demonstrated in the huge number of tonnes it recycles and its commitment to reducing carbon emissions – that delivers big environmental returns. That’s what really drew me in; an opportunity to continue my sustainability focus and maximise outcomes, at home and at work.”
Based in Victoria and Queensland, Alex Fraser is one of Australia’s largest producers of recycled construction materials, having recovered and recycled more than 50 million tonnes of refuse concrete, brick and asphalt, and 5.4 billion bottles worth of kerbside glass waste.
Start of something special
Lynch quickly established herself as a key cog in the company’s project delivery machine. She says that Alex Fraser’s supportive work culture helped nurture a creative and productive environment, contributing to her growing success.
“When I look back at tangible examples of this support, there was all of the practical training, which prepared me to manage every element of my projects from workplace health and safety to the procurement process; from contract management to overseeing dozens of trades and contractors working on site,” she says.
Despite her short time in the industry, Lynch says she has seen positive progress made on diversity throughout the construction industry; which she hopes will only build much needed momentum.
“There are definitely more women around our sites. I’m based out at Epping, so I’ll often see some of the female truck drivers on site,” she says. “There’s far greater diversity in the industry now than even two years ago.”
“I think it’s important to look into how we can create pathways and how we can retain workers from diverse backgrounds. “How do we make the workplace more inclusive?
“It’s important to provide people with a clear vision of the career pathways and progression in place. You’ll see the flow on effect, which will hopefully lead to more women in leadership positions.”
Lynch says she’s also seen improvements in sustainable project procurement and delivery.
“The appetite for sustainable products has certainly grown. We can see it in the changes to policy around sustainable infrastructure at a government level; in the increasing demand from customers for greener products; and in the actions of industry leaders like Hanson who are increasing their focus on sustainable product development and supply,” she says.
“Many of the contractors who come and do work for us on our sites actually use our products, so, there’s a growing interest there too.”
Lynch credits Alex Fraser’s senior leaders like Brendan Camilleri, Albert Yung, and Peter Murphy for their support of her professional growth, and for encouraging her to take on new challenges that became key steps along her career path.
- Recycled First – Victoria’s Circular Accelerator
- Alex Fraser truckies join national road safety campaign
- Alex Fraser Sustainable Supply Hub wins Premier’s Sustainability Award
The Epping Asphalt Plant
Lynch says one of her biggest joys in her current role is having the opportunity to apply herself to challenging projects, as part of a multi-skilled and highly experienced team. She says the varied experience and backgrounds of the project management team ensures they bring a range of skills and perspectives to any new project.
“In terms of day-to-day work, it’s great to be able to bounce off ideas off with my team. We’re always looking at how things can be done differently, and we’re open to finding new ways to get things done, to improve efficiencies, reduce costs and increase sustainability,” she says.
Lynch is part of an accomplished projects team led by Senior Project Manager Akshay Kumar, and supported by Project Support Lead Eddie Rincon-Marquez, and Project Manager Jenny Dinh.
They are just some of key people behind the to the successful build of Alex Fraser’s newest world class asphalt plant in Melbourne’s north.
The new plant consists of a Benninghoven ECO 3000 240tph batch plant and has the capacity to produce more than 100,000 tonnes of Green Roads asphalt every year.
Lynch’s team was responsible for coordinating the year-long build from the ground up.
To provide a safe working environment for everyone on site, Lynch and her team conducted a daily work group meeting, or ‘toolbox’. This meeting informed up to 40 contractors every day, each working to their own deadlines in their designated work areas.
“We actively managed the traffic flow on the project, ensuring the many trucks delivering to the project could make it in and out of the site safely and efficiently.”
“One of the biggest challenges was coordinating the works across separate groups in what was quite a tight working area.”
“The plant components were shipped in from Germany, in 40-foot shipping containers. It took months for all parts to be delivered, and deliveries were sometimes unpredictable,” she says.
Melbourne’s weather was another impacting factor, with ongoing rain impacting deliverables towards the end of the project.
Lynch says having a clear project plan in place was absolutely essential.
“It was good to have a plan and timeline to work towards. It’s a good way to break down a huge project into manageable tasks, and keep everything and everyone on track,” she says.
“It was helpful asking myself “what do we need to prioritise?” and “how can we plan for next week?” I felt that the project was more manageable when I was on site talking to contractors and my colleagues.”
Alex Fraser’s latest Asphalt Plant is collocated with its northern recycling facility, creating the company’s second Sustainable Supply Hub. Only minutes for the Hume Highway, the hub is ideally placed to recover demolition materials from the inner city for recycling and to supply recycled products to major projects and new developments in the northern growth corridor.
Lynch says Alex Fraser’s investment into new sustainable production facilities at Epping complements the company’s established network of facilities surrounding metro Melbourne, which are supplying the construction industry with great volumes of recycled construction material needed to build greener roads and infrastructure.
“My next project is about to take off just a few hundred metres away from the new asphalt plant on the same site. I’ll be leading the build of a rock crushing plant which will play a critical role in supplying the asphalt plant with the raw, recycled materials needed to produce Green Roads asphalt,” she says.
“It’s exciting to play a little part in bringing the circular economy to life.”
Alex Fraser’s Epping Asphalt Plant is in the final stages of commissioning and is already supplying sustainable materials for the Sunbury Road Upgrade for Major Road Projects Victorian and Winslow Infrastructure.
Lynch says the completion of the Epping Asphalt Plant has been her greatest accomplishment during her time at Alex Fraser.
While she is humble in sharing her achievements, her ambition is palpable. It’s clear that this young professional has her sights set on completing her next challenge and expanding her reach into strategic planning for project development.
“I’m excited about jumping into the next project on the recycling side of the
business,” Lynch says.
“In the long term I think I’d like to be more involved in the strategic side, supporting the business to look into further opportunities for growth and diversification, and being part of the earlier planning process behind these types of projects.”
This feature first appeared in Roads & Infrastructure.