Construction bosses say an emphasis on foundation skills is the key to productivity

June 9, 2023

Two leading construction experts say an emphasis on core competencies is the key to developing a resilient and productive building and construction sector in Aotearoa-New Zealand.

Speaking from downtown Auckland, Brian Hutton and Simon Sheldon, executives at award-winning firm Alaska Construction and Interiors, say a management focus on primary skills and promotion from within has helped them to develop a dynamic workplace environment, crucial to retaining industry talent during the recent skills shortage.

“We have both cut our teeth at the bottom rung of the career ladder and personally understand the value of professional support.

“With a strong emphasis on internal promotion, the future workforce gains experience across a breadth of roles which ultimately benefits the business, the professional, and feeds broader industry innovation,” Brian Hutton, managing director of boutique firm Alaska, says.

Alaska Construction & Interiors is the latest business to partner with Keystone Trust in a sponsorship role, which will see the firm contribute annual funding, mentorship and pastoral care for students supported by the registered charity.

Wholly dedicated to the wraparound support of students experiencing financial or circumstantial hardship working toward tertiary qualifications in the building and construction sectors, Keystone Trust is now entering its thirtieth year in operation, and boasts an alumni network full of the best and brightest property professionals in New Zealand.

Amanda Stanes, general manager of Keystone Trust, says worker shortages during the pandemic have enabled students to gain a broader workplace experience than might otherwise have been the case.

“Aided by the support and generosity of our sponsorship partners across the property sector, the student cohort has gained valuable work experience, oftentimes across a range of teams according to staffing levels and the availability of mentors.

“Whilst this might seem like a challenge, it facilitates a broader industry view, which our students report as hugely beneficial to their understanding of operational requirements and skills development.

“Work experience at a business such as Alaska, for example, could see students participating in conversations around strategy and project feasibility one day, or on-site with contractors across the country, mucking in and managing site safety the next. Each is an integral moving part of a successful business.  

“By taking on a mix of roles and responsibilities, trainees gain valuable experience in diverse aspects of the business, which enhances professional competence and contributes to an expanded perspective of the industry,” she says.

While population growth and a government emphasis on attracting skilled workers are set to alleviate capacity constraints across various industries, the New Zealand’s building and construction businesses still report that resource remains a key challenge for the sector.

“The shortage of materials is finally easing, but it is still difficult to find the right people,” says Simon Sheldon, director and commercial manager of Alaska.

“We’re seeing a longer gestation period for skills development, with the answer being to identify and nurture talent early – this requires strong management and co-operation with organisations (like Keystone Trust) which capture interests at school.

“Our goal in partnering with the trust is to support students coming through the ranks. What’s good for the individual is usually good for the industry, and we are focused on creating meaningful connections through this sponsorship.”


For further media enquiries, please contact

Amanda Stanes                                                                             
Keystone Trust – General Manager                                             
M: 021 689 380

Brian Hutton
Alaska Construction & Interiors – Managing Director                                                
M: 021 330 994

Simon Sheldon
Alaska Construction & Interiors – Director & Commercial Manager                                     
M: 021 911 891

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