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SARNZ Life Membership - celebrating David Spice

David Spice shares what it's like to receive SARNZ Life Membership

I was both surprised and humbled, when my name was called out. I did realize half way through Paul’s introduction that it was me he was talking about, but when I got up and everybody in the room stood up and clapped it was overwhelming, and quite emotional - it’s something I will never forget.

In 1994 Paul Cunningham Senior and Dave Macready, Manager of Acrow at the time, contacted all scaffolding companies in NZ to attend a meeting in Wellington to form the association. All Christchurch scaffolding companies (about 5) met in Acrow's yard, and after some discussion I was nominated to attend the meeting in Wellington.

After being in the scaffolding industry for many years I was determined to improve the skills of scaffolders. Up to 1997 there was no training for scaffolders whatsoever.

Back then, the Labour Department (WorkSafe) issued the CoC's. All the applicant had to do was give a verbal explanation of their history and answer a couple of dozen multi-choice questions. Then the BCITO traveled the country informing all scaffolders that they had to sit the National Certificate in order to retain their CoC. There was quite an uproar at the time. I started as a part-time tutor for Tai Poutini Polytechnic (TPP). It took about 18 months for all existing scaffolders to complete their National Certificates.

I saw the opportunity to start the scaffolding schools and my Manager at the time, Peter O’Sullivan, and I approached the CE who eventually approved the idea, and the schools were born in Christchurch and Auckland, and later in Wellington.

Creating workable assessment documents was a major hurdle. I teamed up with Peter Dobbs (ex-NZQA) to write the assessments. And without the support of Peter O’Sullivan it would never have gotten off the ground. We then started interviewing unemployed guys and putting them on a 30-week course. Each Friday they would go out to industry for work experience. 
I am very proud to say two of those guys have done very well 25 years later. One is now the Operation Manager of a major scaffolding company here in Christchurch. The other is running a big team in Wellington for Geeves Scaffolding. I find this very rewarding.

I believe at the moment there are too many so-called experts in the mix in the revamping of the current assessments. The best people to write the assessments are the tutors under the guidance of a professional educator i.e. a training provider manager. My advice is please get a tutor and manager from Vertical Horizonz (VHNZ) and TPP, and Wain from SARNZ. These are the real experts.

But to make a difference in the field be passionate about the industry you're in and be determined to accomplish your goals and, more importantly, listen to advice given by guys who have spent years swinging on the spanner not scaffolding salesmen or company managers who have rarely picked up a scaffold spanner.