Author: Craig Ramsay/Tuesday, December 4, 2018/Categories: Quinton Anthony

Recently, we saw the Victorian Labour Party easily return to government to continue with their Infrastructure Program. This program is an impressive yet ambitious commitment by Premier Daniel Andrews and his party. A program that should create sustainable employment opportunities now and into the future.

Last week, Daniel Andrews called for expressions of interest from builders to place their tenders to deliver the $200 million early works package of North East Link, expected to start in 2020. The $7-9 billion primary package that will involve the construction of the tunnels has a procurement timeline that will take more than 18 months to complete.

With all this work happening now and planned for well into the future, I asked 3 influential females in the Victorian construction industry the question: “What challenges do we face as an industry to attract and retain diverse, skilled leaders for the future?”

Laurice Temple

A Project Manager with a degree in Construction Management and with over thirty years’ experience building infrastructure projects in the US, Asia and Australia, Laurice is a board director, business owner, consultant & motivational speaker.  Previously, Laurice was appointed the Chief Executive Officer of the National Association of Women in Construction.

"As a woman who has worked in the construction industry all my life on the management side, throughout the US, Asia and Australia on large infrastructure projects, I note that Australia has been one of the most challenging with regards to cultural and gender diversity and bringing in broader perspectives or being forward-thinking. 

One way we can drive positive change in this industry is through progressive leadership in government with the assistance of the unions.  If we do not have someone driving change from the top, then we are once again losing out on huge opportunities to set us up for a better infrastructure future. 

The industry is now collectively aware that we need to attract skilled and more diverse talent into the industry which will support the budgeted spend for the next 10 years, which is positively contributing to our economic growth.  I believe, to make such changes, it will require strong change leadership supported by policy change to support changing the industry culture and the normalised behaviours which is aligned with future demands. 

We need to address issues which we know are negatively impacting the industry.  This includes the wellbeing of people working in the industry.  Given we have the highest suicide rate out of all industries, we need to address this and understand how this and other well-ingrained cultural behaviours impact our ability to attract the talent required to build into the future. 

So I am hopeful that while we build for the future, we will also initiate strong policy changes to help drive behavioural and cultural changes that will set up the industry for a stronger future.  This includes changing our norms which will then attract a more diversely skilled group of individuals, drive a more inclusive culture that will attract new talent to meet future demands, drive better performance and support a strong economic growth." 

Nicole Neal

Nicole is an environmental management and sustainability professional with over 16 years’ experience in consulting and construction management. Nicole’s expertise encompasses construction and infrastructure environmental management and construction sustainability. In late 2017, Nicole was honoured to receive the ISCA Individual Leadership in Infrastructure Sustainability Award.

"For me, there are three key challenges that I see - (1) the pipeline of talent, (2) smashing stereotypes and getting the industry to think outside of neat little boxes and (3) time to guide, mentor and nurture our future leaders. 

Before we can cultivate leaders for the future in the infrastructure industry, we talk about getting people interested in the industry in the first place.  We've got to help more youngsters, more young women of all backgrounds, to gain an appreciation for and a love of STEM-type subjects and see that there's an exciting future for them in these spaces.  It's a really genuinely exciting time to be in infrastructure planning, design and delivery right now!

It's up to us as an industry, collaborating with educators, to demonstrate that there are pathways and an exciting array of careers of all sorts in the infrastructure industry.  Flowing on from this is then stemming the tide of engineering and science graduates opting to start their careers in other fields (i.e. banking, finance and law seem to be strong attractors!).  One of the key challenges I see looming large for the industry is helping high school and uni students see that there's a genuinely interesting and fulfilling (both professionally and financially) career path or paths that they can choose. 

We've got to continue smashing stereotypes and knocking out archaic and anachronistic structures, approaches to business and continuing to break down ingrained societal so-called "norms" and beliefs.  Ingrained cultural notions that men and women or people from certain backgrounds do or do not do certain things.  We've got to throw that out because it's limiting not only those individual's potential but the potential of our organisations and our communities. 

Part of this is also a change of mindset for the industry itself in embracing non-linear career paths, embracing people that come from allied (or perhaps even non-allied backgrounds) that can think strategically and have the leadership qualities that bring a different dimension to an organisation.  Obviously, there is always going to be a need for people with the right technical skills and experience (see paragraph above!) but I feel that organisations can certainly benefit from throwing the proverbial net out wider and avoiding the groupthink that can come along with recruiting to type. 

And lastly, this is not so much a challenge as such, but we need to get more people in the industry giving back and nurturing talent in its various forms.  This is something that I'm eprsonally very passionate about, particularly for young females int he construction and infrastructure sector where I work - time needs to be made to listen to, converse with and guide future leaders.  The most challenging part of this at the moment, particularly here in Melbourne and the east coast of Australia, is that we're seeing so much work it oftentimes feels like there are not enough hours in the day to get things done.  However, I always absolutely aim to make time for people that reach out to me (goodness knows, that's probably daunting enough a thing to do for some), as it's such an important thing to do.  Attracting a more diverse group, driving a more inclusive culture, creating transparent KPI's which have to be adhered to on any project that gets state funding.

Sandra Dodds

Sandra is an executive who has extensive global infrastructure experience in transport, power, water and telecommunications. Sandra was previously the Chief Executive, Urban Infrastructure for Broadspectrum Ltd and prior to this was the Chief Executive Officer for Downer Asia. Sandra has delivered results by building high performing teams that create a positive culture and encourage collaboration.

"One of the biggest challenges that face us as leaders in infrastructure is attracting and retaining our leaders for the future.  Generally, we think we understand the skills that we require based upon who we have employed in the past and the skills that have previously been needed.  For leaders, and ultimately businesses, to be successful in a demanding and dynamic environment, the status quo is not an option.  We need to challenge our unconscious bias and redefine the skills required of our future leaders.  In redefining the skills required, we need to challenge ourselves to think "outside the box" and at least consider what skills are required to deliver solutions differently e.g. power, telecommunications and road infrastructure to support electric and autonomous vehicles and what behaviours are required, e.g. collaboration. 

In conjunction with redefining the required skills, it would be pertinent to also review the staff engagement and retention strategy to ensure they are current and appropriate.  The challenge is getting started and understanding the possibilities as there is no right or wrong answer and this is an evolving journey!  A good place to start would be to engage with some of the enthusiastic, talented people who can teach, challenge and coach leaders about the possibilities by thinking about things differently and understanding how technology can be used. 

As leaders, we need to be bold and be prepared to "give it a go"!  Our future leaders will be excited, engaged and contribute to shaping the future in conjunction with wanting to be part of a dynamic infrastructure team."  


We live in an era where with the use of technology, both companies and candidates can easily find their optimal employer and employee based solely on preferences, values and passions.  That's why I think it is time for the construction industry as a whole to critically assess how attractive or appealing it is to our aspiring leaders for the future.

I welcome positive discussion and possibly establish a think tank in the new year to discuss this further.  I would like to acknowledge the passionate contribution to this important discussion piece from Laurice, Nicole and Sandra.  


Craig is a Senior Associate for Quinton Anthony in our Melbourne office and plays a pivotal role in the search and appointment of middle to senior level executives in the Construction, Engineering, Infrastructure and Property sectors within Victoria.

View Craig’s full profile on Linkedin or for further information contact him at craig.ramsay@quintonanthony.com