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Reflections on the Value of Work Placement and Cadetship Programs During Execution of an Enforceable Undertaking

One of the key areas of focus regarding an Enforceable Undertaking (EU) is to decide what the goals are, for the business and the regulator. The Advanced Buildings and Restorations (ABR) Health, Safety and Environment (HSE) team identified that one of our goals for the successful completion of the EU should be a meaningful and lasting benefit to the work health and safety industry and (if possible) the wider community, through a positive impact on future health and safety practitioners in the construction industry.


ABR progressed this line of thinking and decided that one way to provide a strong, positive influence on the future of our industry was through the inclusion of student placements and cadetships in our EU strategy. The goal being to assist future WHS professionals to gain a positive experience and exposure to the health and safety challenges presented by the construction industry, under the leadership of our seasoned and professional HSE team. ABR proposed that this approach would provide a high level of value at the right time in a HSE professionals’ career to result in a lasting benefit.


To best execute this strategy, students were selected from universities offering higher level safety qualifications (Undergraduate degrees and Post Graduate Master’s qualifications). The Student Placements and Safety Cadets would be paid positions and would be based in the ABR head office in NSW, were they were able to receive direct management and guidance from the NSW HSE Advisor.


ABR provided the successful work placement students 100 hours of office and site-based contact time to allow a sufficient introduction to the construction industry. The program aimed to compliment the students’ studies and assist ABR in meeting its goal of promoting positive health and safety experiences for emerging HSE professionals. The student placement and Cadetship program was planned to run for the entirety of the two-year duration of the EU.


Placement students spent one day per week at either the ABR corporate office or on construction sites, or a combination of both. During their time as a placement student, ABR sought feedback from them regarding their experiences. This allowed ABR to gauge the success of the initiative. Through the feedback gained, ABR confirmed that placement students found the allocated time to be sufficient to gain a valuable level of exposure to the industry, and to gain useful insights into the organisational tools used for the management of health and safety in a high-risk industry.


The students provided feedback that they predominantly benefited from experiencing how procedures and work methods were used in real life scenarios, on various construction projects. This experience was facilitated through time in the corporate office, site visits and mentoring from the HSE Advisor and wider HSE team. Students reported that they gained particular value from their exposure to ABR’s implementation of a modern site safety management system. The adoption of the site safety management system demonstrated how technology can be utilised to provide consistent health and safety compliance.


Students also reflected that they acquired an improved ability to communicate effectively across different levels of an organisation. They felt they had gained valuable experience in effective communication, from sub-contractor trades to supervisors and managers.


Whilst the work placement program was deemed to be very successful, one opportunity for improvement identified from early student feedback is a greater opportunity for site attendance during the allocated 100 hours. Students felt that this would better allow them to gain awareness of how safety procedures, developed in the office, are applied in the field.


Similar to placement students, Safety Cadets were allocated weekly contact hours at ABR’s Head office in NSW; however, Cadets were assigned three days per week as opposed to the 1 day per week for 16 weeks assigned to placement students. At the time of writing this paper the second of three Cadetships are yet to commence their time with ABR. Feedback from the first Cadet is that her experiences have been highly beneficial to her development as a HSE professional, finding her time at work sites to be very rewarding and the implementation of HSE procedure to be a key development opportunity.


The Cadet was able to apply the theoretical knowledge gained from her studies to the practical setting, learning real world examples of how to achieve work health and safety compliance, in a challenging industry. She was further able to apply her learnings and insights to gain a more comprehensive understanding of the subjects she was completing at university. This has allowed her to understand the nature of the various safety roles more clearly in the field and gain useful insights into the Australian work culture.


As for the placement students, the Cadet reflected that visiting the construction sites was an effective way to enhance her understanding of how risks are identified and controlled in a practical sense, such as through site toolbox talks and safety supervision provided by ABR as the Person Conducting a Business or Undertaking (the PCBU). The Cadet concurred with ABR’s proposal that the Cadetship program would produce a more knowledgeable HSE professional, who could then go on to generate a stronger positive impact on the health and safety industry.


There is no doubt that the student placement and Cadetship programs incorporated into our EU execution strategy have benefitted ABR; however, the program has more importantly provided a strong platform for students and emerging professionals to develop practical skills that complement their academic learnings. ABR believe that this has allowed us to provide future health and safety professionals with a strong foundation, and a lasting legacy of improvement to how the safety challenges of the construction industry are managed.

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Practices that constitute modern slavery can include:

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Modern slavery is a term used to describe serious exploitation. It does not include practices like substandard working conditions or underpayment of workers, though these practices are also harmful and may be present in some situations of modern slavery.

Advanced Buildings and Restorations (ABR) agrees with the principles of the Modern Slavery Act 2018 (Cth) that commenced operation on 1 January 2019. As a leader in our industry, ABR recognises the importance of our commitment to ensure the operation of our business is done in an ethical and lawful manner by ensuring we only work with those businesses who are aligned to our core values.

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