Scafit — 2023 SARNZ Conference training company of the year

For scaffolding company Scafit, investment in their people is the structure that supports the success of their whole business. Company owners Nicki and David Crowley liken it to a cheesecake.

The company, which was named training company of the year at the 2023 SARNZ conference, has embraced the 70:20:10 model for learning and personal development, which means 70% of learning is on the job, with 20% through coaching and peer mentoring, and 10% coming through formal education and specialised courses.

“Just like a cheesecake, the 10% is the base that plays a crucial role in holding everything together. In our case, that 10% is our apprenticeship and leadership programme and the fundamental hard skill courses necessary to becoming a scaffolder,” says David, Scafit’s Managing Director.

“The true essence of learning lies in the 70%; the filling. The real growth happens on the job, where individuals can explore, make mistakes without fear of blame, and learn in the process.

The accelerator is the top 20%; the cream on top. That comes from the guidance provided by our managers and leaders throughout the organisation.”

A lot of work has gone into creating bespoke training programmes at Scafit, which includes supporting their now company trainer Doug Pokiha through teacher training.

“He came through that with the understanding that people have different ways of learning and you need to take that on board,” says Nicki, Scafit General Manager. Having graduated, Doug worked with the Crowley’s to create a complete training programme for the company, known as the “Scafit Skills Pathway” designed to take people from being complete beginners in the industry, to fully capable scaffolders.

Transparency is built into the programme via an open spreadsheet, so learners can see their own progress and that of their co-workers, and company leadership can easily identify gaps, or if someone is at risk of falling behind. They can then get any support they might need to get back up to speed.

But it’s not all about hard, task-focused skills, Scafit places huge value on teaching soft skills, and has designed its own training programme, focusing on areas like leadership and emotional intelligence, available to the whole team.

“The guys really enjoy coming to it. Some have come back several times,” Nicki says. 

“David and I run it, and I get something out of it myself, every time. You see the guys have these ‘a-ha’ moments and wonder if they’d never been taught some of these things in schools.”

David says a big part of the soft skills – which the company prefers to call ‘strong skills’ – training is getting the team to set their own individual goals, that are private to them, and understanding their “why”.

“That just helps you get out of bed in the morning. For most of our team it’s about providing for their family, financially, but also physically, emotionally and socially,” he says, adding that the company’s B Corp Certification is also a source of pride for them.

A B Corp Certification acknowledges that a company meets certain benchmarks in terms of social and environmental performance, accountability and transparency.

“Having that makes the team feel like they are part of something bigger than themselves. They take pride in it and that has a flow-on effect for how they approach work every day,” he says.

A comment at the 2023 SARNZ conference pointing out that a third of young people who enter the construction industry leave it within a year, resonated with David around the importance of not just training, but the clarity and effectiveness of that training.

“That happens because they don’t have a clear view of their training programme and where they can go,” he says. “If you’re on board with us we want you to have a picture of where you want to be. It gets people engaged and focused. It means we don’t have problems with people showing up late, or messing around.”

Nicki adds that the cultural impact on the company has been huge. Not only does Scafit’s comprehensive approach to training and culture — which includes providing breakfast every day for the whole team — build loyalty from staff in an industry where skilled people are hard to find, she says the team often manages any culture or behavioural issues itself.

“If we get somebody new who isn’t taking it seriously, or is constantly turning up late, we barely need to get involved. Their crew will tell them ‘hey you’re part of our crew and you’re letting us down’.”

“It also helps build momentum for training within the business as new recruits come on board, many of whom are found by word-of-mouth”, she says.

“The guys go through their training, some go on to be managers, and they all support the next people coming through. It’s been a really fun journey. We really care about these people. We’re all in the waka together.”

From left: Scafit Contracts Manager Neihana Christian, EarnLearn | Te Pūkenga Senior Programme Manager Kath Williams, Scafit General Manager Nicki Crowley, Scafit Managing Director David Crowley, Scafit sales manager Luke Mainwaring.