Solar Panel Install Local Business

'It means a lot': Local businesses partner with Public Works on local solutions in western NSW

From Wilcannia to Walgett, Public Works engages local businesses on its projects, supporting the flow of jobs, skills and money to regional communities in NSW. This article shines a light on two western NSW organisations that Public Works have partnered with, creating positive outcomes and building trade skills in local communities.

As an organisation based in regional NSW, Public Works is committed to engaging local businesses as partners on construction projects.

“Our priority is working with local businesses wherever possible, so that projects generate local jobs, including apprenticeships and traineeships, and put money into the local economy instead of it flowing to out-of-town businesses,” said Andrew Cruckshank, Director, Construction Procurement and Social Benefit, Public Works.

“We want to enable local people, businesses and communities to benefit from and contribute to making regional NSW a great place to live, work and play.”

It is a core value that runs through Public Works’ procurement processes.

“When inviting competitive tenders on a project, our project managers actively look for opportunities to invite and encourage local businesses, including Aboriginal businesses, to submit a proposal.”

“We encourage all regional businesses to explore and apply to become a prequalified supplier with the NSW Government through the buy.nsw Supplier Hub.”

Darren Jackson Electrical: Shining a light on solar installations

Attracting teachers and police to work in western NSW, where summers are hot and winters are cold and windy, relies on comfortable housing.

In 2020, the Teacher Housing Authority and NSW Police Force Housing ran a six-month project to install 392 heating and cooling units on teacher and policing housing in western NSW.

“We looked to trusted and capable contractors to successfully deliver the program,” said Land and Housing Corporation Director of Housing Services Greg Phipson.

“Our partner Public Works, who we have worked with since 2018, leveraged its extensive network of local prequalified builders, trades, and Supply Nation connections to get the job done.”

Darren Jackson and his team of Electrical Workers

Darren Jackson (L) and colleagues (R) installing heating and cooling units on teacher and police housing.

Darren Jackson Electrical, originally based in Bourke and now in Tamworth, was a prequalified business engaged to work on the project.

In January 2020, the business bid and won a competitive tender to install 89 solar panels on teacher and police housing in Bourke.

“We had already been installing solar panels on social and residential housing in western NSW for several years, so we had the right skills, experience and connections for the job,” said owner Darren Jackson of the business, which is certified as an Indigenous business by Supply Nation.

“There are eight fulltime employees in the business, and we engage up to 30 subcontractors in peak times. All those workers, including myself, live in western NSW.”

Once the business completed the first job, it won additional tenders to install solar panels to more properties.

In total, the business completed 14 work packages over three years, installing more than 500 solar panels on teacher and police housing across western NSW, including Bourke, Coonamble, Ivanhoe, Menindee, Narrabri, Moree, Walgett and Wilcannia.

“There are not as many government construction projects in rural areas,” said Mr Jackson.

“We really valued the opportunity to work on NSW Government projects and do multiple jobs as it allowed us to maintain our high local employment.”

Mr Phipson said that using the “local contractor network was crucial” to the success of the project, given its large scale and tight six-month timeframe.

“It was remarkable how Darren and his team geared up for the challenge in such a short space of time,” he said.

“Knowing the local communities where work was targeted helped open doors and managed local expectations to enable the program to be met.”

Walgett Community College High School: Building local trade skills

The small town of Walgett, in northern NSW, is a regional hub for the wool, wheat and cotton industries.

“In small regional towns like Walgett—with a population of just over 2,000 people—there are often fewer job opportunities than in bigger cities,” said Public Works Riverina-Western NSW Strategic Projects Manager Jon Grahame.

“Youth cannot always see the pathway from getting an education or job skills to finding a meaningful job once they finish school.”

Tradie info session

Three former students with WCC High School Construction teacher Harry Witt at an information session

In February and March 2022, Public Works partnered with Walgett Community College High School to run three Tradie and Contractor Information Sessions.

“The sessions gave an overview of the construction course offered to school students, including work placement requirements, and the tender process for NSW Government work,” said Mr Grahame of the sessions that attracted 11 tradespeople.

The aim of the sessions was to support and enhance work opportunities for local businesses and students studying construction.

“We hope that local tradespeople will be able to secure more NSW Government work and be better placed to offer ongoing employment to young people from the Walgett community,” said Red Earth Advisory CEO Kate Baxter, who facilitated the partnership between Public Works and Walgett Community College.

“The school is now better placed to provide young people with the basic trade skills they need to be attractive to a local employer.”