Hutchinson Builders’ commitment to genuine diversity and inclusion starts with its culture – a culture that Kate Lucarelli says helps team members to succeed and opens up opportunities.
Lucarelli is a shining example of a young woman thriving in the construction industry. Since joining Hutchinson Builders, affectionately known as Hutchies, the devoted construction professional has moved from strength to strength in her career, moving into a project management role after just 12 months with the business.
Her success stems from a passion for the construction industry and the opportunities it presents, but also from the inclusive and diverse workplace culture she’s part of at Hutchies.
“There are always going to be hurdles and barriers when breaking into a male-dominated industry, but Hutchies has been supportive in the development of my career,” says Lucarelli. “Bring focus, resilience and passion to the table and then, with the support of the right employer, the challenges become surmountable – if you’re the right person, you’ll find the right job.”
She hopes other young women will learn from her example.
“You can’t be what you can’t see,” she says. “I hope that as more women take up the tools and positions in management they will serve as role models; and that young women considering their career options will see the possibilities and think about the opportunities the construction industry has to offer.”
Lucarelli speaks highly of Hutchies’ approach to promoting diversity and inclusion in the workplace. The company readily recognises aptitude and attitude, with a strong focus on rewarding merit, regardless of background, she says.
“My construction journey started when I left school and completed a four-year Bachelor of Applied Science in Construction Management degree, with honours,” she says. “In the years that followed, I worked for the likes of ABD Group as a project coordinator/junior foreperson and then Kapitol Group as a site manager, where I gained experience delivering a range of builds.”
“In January 2021, I was offered a position as a project engineer at Hutchies and took the opportunity with both hands.
“Hutchies supports its company members to succeed and reach their full potential as well as to take on challenges.”
There are always going to be setbacks when taking on the norm but with determination, the right mindset and the right attitude, people can build a rewarding career, Lucarelli says.
Lucarelli took on her first build as a project manager at Hutchies in 2022, overseeing the delivery of the Rockbank Primary School in Victoria (now Thornhill Park Primary School). Currently, she is the project manager for the new Binap Primary School in Brookfield – a Victorian School Building Authority (VSBA) project. Once complete, the new school will house up to 575 students, including approximately 50 places for young people with specialist needs. Lucarelli says she loves working on VSBA’s projects, because with them comes a level of fulfilment.
“At the end of these kinds of projects, you get to see the space that you’ve created actually getting used by local kids,” she says. “These schools play a major role in those kids’ lives, so it’s really fulfilling to be part of their delivery.”
As a project manager, Lucarelli is a direct conduit between the client and the site team, liaising with the project contract administrators and design and site team; driving program and direction; and facilitating communication with subcontractors. It’s a role that she continues to thrive in, something she says is in part due to Hutchies’ willingness to give everyone an opportunity to discover their strengths.
Lucarelli works in the company’s Melbourne team, led by team leader Bernie Nolan, who says Hutchies strives to provide the right opportunities and environment for all its employees to be successful.
“At Hutchies, we want to be reflective of the diversity that exists across the community,” says Nolan. “Currently, we still see some hesitation in young women wanting to do trades, but we want to at least give everyone the opportunity to explore working in construction.”
“We’ve got a wide range of people with a wide range of skills and a wide range of backgrounds, and everyone has their place – it’s about finding them and getting them into the right place so that they can thrive in our industry.”
Since joining Hutchies, Lucarelli has not only excelled in her role as project manager but has also attended events like the Department of Education’s Trades Fit Expo, where Hutchies partnered with Incolink and CFMEU to promote trades. Lucarelli, along with a number of Hutchies’ female leaders, attended the event to spread the message to young women and non-binary students about the vast opportunities within the construction industry.
“They also shared the various pathways into the sector – whether it be through an apprenticeship, a construction management degree or work experience – to help the attendees understand that there are viable alternatives out there,” says Nolan. “Kate’s been to several schools to share these messages and is a great mentor for young women looking to start a career in construction.”
“Kate fits into our culture like a hand in a glove.”
It starts with workplace culture
It’s important for Hutchies to foster a diverse workforce, says Nolan, but it’s also important for the industry.
Nolan has worked in the construction industry for over 35 years and says he has seen the dynamic of the sector change considerably as more women and underrepresented groups have joined the workforce. “Our industry is a much better place than it was five years ago, 10 years ago, and certainly 25 years ago, thanks to the increasing diversity we’re seeing across the sector,” says Nolan.
“Hutchies is committed to inclusion, and one of the core pillars of inclusion is being aware of the opportunities that women can have within our industry – and it’s limitless.”
In Australia, women account for around only 15 per cent of the construction workforce, with less than five per cent in trade and labouring roles. Attracting women to the industry is an ongoing challenge for construction companies, but with the right culture, environment and opportunities, Nolan says the industry can make great inroads in improving diversity across the sector.
Currently, 23 per cent of Nolan’s direct team are women, including Lucarelli in a project management role, design managers, site supervisors, forepeople, project engineers, apprentices and cadets – well above the industry norm.
“Championing diversity on a wider industry level comes back to our focus on having the right culture in our organisation, which is a culture of respect for everyone,” says Nolan. “Our success is based on all of our people working respectfully and collaboratively with our clients, project teams, subcontractors, consultants and community.”
“If we’re bringing the right people into our organisation, then we don’t need to have specific policies, rules and regulations about how to be inclusive, as it happens naturally and evolves.
“That’s what we find within our workforce at Hutchies – we have people from different backgrounds and experiences working together to create positive outcomes for our clients, people and the community; and it all comes back to culture.”
Respecting and valuing difference
Hutchies is also a huge supporter of the Victorian Government’s Building Equality Policy (BEP), which aims to improve gender equality in the building, infrastructure and civil engineering sectors. The BEP applies to government projects around the state and mandates female representation in at least three per cent of each trade role, seven per cent of each non-trade position and 35 per cent of management, supervisor and specialist labour roles. Launched in January 2022, the BEP also mandates that four per cent of labour hours for apprentices and trainees will be required to be performed by women.
Victoria’s Minister for Industrial Relations Tim Pallas said: “These targets are the first step in significantly increasing the number of women in construction.”
“It’s essential to cement the role of women in a modern construction industry and we’ve worked with employers, industry and unions to work towards these targets.”
The Victorian Government is fostering opportunities for people of the state, including disadvantaged Victorians through social and indigenous engagement, says Nolan.
“The state is pursuing improved diversity through its contracting and asking us, as a construction contractor, to make commitments to support delivering on those goals – and we’re on board,” he says. “There’s no escaping that in the short term the Building Equality targets are high.”
“We need to address, among other things, the lead time required to create a pipeline of talent coming through the education system through a grassroots approach.
“It will take concerted effort, commitment, innovation and flexibility from all within the construction industry to attract and foster the right people to achieve gender equality.”
Hutchies has long been living the values of fostering workplace diversity and inclusion as advocated for in the BEP, thus it was a natural decision to support the state’s movement.
In 2012, Hutchies employed a dedicated Indigenous specialist with the aim of respectfully engaging and working with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities. “This has evolved to become the Statim Yaga (start work) program, which we started in partnership with the Federal Government’s Employment Parity Initiative (EPI),” says Nolan.
Launched in 2015, the EPI set a target of placing an additional 20,000 First Australians into private sector jobs by 2020. In alignment with this initiative, the focus of Statim Yaga is on Indigenous training and employment while increasing the cultural capability of Hutchies, says Nolan.
Under Statim Yaga, Hutchies set a target to train and place 550 Indigenous jobseekers into employment within the construction industry by the end of 2020.
Today, through this program, the company has placed more than 750 First Australians into full time employment and in 2020, Hutchies won the Queensland Government’s Business Reconciliation Award for its genuine achievements through Statim Yaga. In 2019, the company also won the Queensland Community Foundation Philanthropist of the Year award for its support of several not-for-profit organisations including AEIOU, Bravehearts, National Association of Women in Construction and YoungCare.
Hutchies won Large Employer of the Year in the Australian Training Awards in both 2011 and 2017 for the work of its training division, Hutchies Training, which has a completion rate exceeding 90 per cent (again, well over the industry norm) and delivers hands-on, enterprise-based learning experiences.
“We’re extremely proud of these accolades, which highlight our appreciation for good grassroots education, but I must point out that the construction industry needs to band together to continue improving learning pathways,” says Nolan. “It’s not just about creating the right workplace culture, it’s also about getting more people into university, vocational education and training, and trades so that they can flow through to fill construction roles.”
“The huge pipeline of activity planned across Australia promises a bright future for anyone who wants to build a rewarding and fulfilling career in construction.”
Lucarelli agrees, saying that when she left school construction wasn’t on the cards. It wasn’t, and in many cases still isn’t, spoken about as a viable option for young girls at the end of their schooling.
“Making it easier for young women to enter the industry and showcasing the construction industry is a great career for men and women alike – that’s how we make true progress in getting a more diverse range of people in an industry that’s traditionally male dominated,” says Lucarelli.
Hutchies is not big on marketing its several accolades and achievements. Instead, the company humbly and actively strives to set true change in motion to create a better future for its teams, communities and the construction industry.
Nolan says the company’s caring approach to diversity and inclusion and advocation for improved training and skills pathways will continue to evolve to create further opportunities for jobseekers, its employees and the wider industry.