New Zealand Sign & Display Association Inc.
Advocating for the craft
Business View Oceania interviews Andy Lowe, President of NZSDA, for our focus on the Sign and Display Industry in New Zealand
For half a century, the New Zealand Sign and Display Association Inc. (NZSDA) has been the voice of the sign and display industry in the country, represents its members and the wider industry through professional advocacy and lobbying on issues affecting sign businesses.
A non-profit Association united by a Code of Practice to uphold high standards of craftsmanship and business ethics, the NZSDA liaises with local bodies on by-laws affecting signage, maintaining apprenticeship training standards and encourages the sharing and expanding of knowledge within the sign making industry. Members of the New Zealand Sign & Display Association are best practice ‘Sign Craftspeople’ who provide proven excellence to their customers. Membership is voluntary and the Association is primarily funded by member subscriptions.
The NZSDA is an active forum for the exchange of ideas, training and development, and a resource of information and guidance to its many members. It covers the whole spectrum of signage and display manufacturing including neon, illuminated, handcrafted, technology, construction and design. When it comes to commercial, technical or economic policies affecting the sign and display industry, the Association is the trusted official channel of communication between the industry and many government offices as well as Standards New Zealand, the New Zealand Qualifications Authority, and other statutory organisations and local authorities.
Business View Oceania asked the NZSDA President Andy Lowe for his perspective on the current challenges and future outlook for the Association and the industry as a whole. He offered some enlightening insights.
BVO: How has the NZSDA evolved over almost 50 years?
Lowe: “Our aims and goals haven’t changed much, rather they have adapted to current production techniques, materials used and legislation. With more and more legislation, council bylaws, workplace health and safety laws and general employment rules and regulations, the NZSDA assists our members in navigating the minefield of general business management. If we have evolved, I would suggest this is where we have changed the most.
“We still supply member financial benefits in the form of discounts from Association partners, such as insurance and workplace health and safety plans and industry regulation tickets such as working at heights. Our main member benefit still remains the networking opportunities, not just sourcing work but also learning from each other and associating with like-minded people in the same industry with the same challenges. Our Association also provides information to the general public, through social media and our website. Businesses can feel confident when dealing with one of our members that they are working with a professional company that has met and maintains the high standards in quality.”
BVO: What are the biggest challenges in the industry today and what solutions are being employed to improve the situation?
Lowe: “One of our largest challenges is the shortage of skilled staff. Like most trades our members are constantly struggling to find and keep skilled personnel. The NZSDA are working with our government organised and lead training provider to not only keep the training of our apprentices up to standard and current but to promote our industry to job seekers as an exciting, technologically evolving creative trade. We have also developed our Signee pre-vocational training program for those seeking employment in the signage industry. This is the first step toward a career in sign making which acts as a prelim for the apprenticeship.
“Our careers and training liaison is working with schools and other training groups to spread the word and help attract creative people to our industry. The New Zealand government is currently revamping the apprenticeship training system which will promote working with industry even closer in the coming future. COVID-19 and its effects on our industry is still evolving but, so far, we have found our members seem positive about the long-term future. While COVID’s business effects vary greatly from member to member it is clear that our industry is still growing strongly. The NZSDA are available to all our members for information and assistance in dealing with these crazy times.”
BVO: Can you describe your membership categories and the benefits offered by the Association?
Lowe: “Currently we have 219 members, 180 of which are sign making members, the balance are Associate members (suppliers to the industry). We have four types of membership: Category A services the one-man band or contractors; Category B for the small businesses that have three employees or less; Category C for large sign businesses of 3 or more employees; and an Associate membership for our suppliers or those affiliated with the industry. Last year we introduced a new membership called multi-site which was helpful and cost effective for those large franchises or companies that have the same name in different locations throughout NZ.
“We have many benefits that suit our small to medium businesses such as Health and Safety programs, employment information, business and home insurance and like many associations we also offer discounts with petrol and office stationery, power and hireage of equipment. We have recently conducted surveys of what the kiwi sign shop looks like today and how it will look in the future and also a salary guide for our members for roles within signage. All these reports are very valuable to our members and suppliers.
“Our conferences and Awards events are held every year in a regional town in either the North or South Island. Our Expo is held every second year in Auckland of which our conference and Awards events run alongside at the same time. We communicate out to our members constantly via a monthly e-news publication and on our social pages, Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn, weekly or fortnightly. We also offer training through our newly created brand Signee. Signee Industry is for those entering into sign making, or upskilling. There are also Sign Making Apprenticeships on offer, however you need to be employed in a sign shop to complete this training as it is in-work training.”
BVO: What are the main priorities of the Association?
Lowe: “By far our members’ main concern for the future is around training and lack of skilled labour in our industry. At present the NZSDA priorities are working with the government review of vocational training ‘ROVE’ initiative to get our apprenticeship training back online with more industry input and feedback. We are also working to promote our Signee Pre-Vocational training scheme out to schools, careers advisors and other training organisations.
“Environmental concerns from within our industry are growing rapidly. So, we are also working with our trade suppliers to develop a materials sustainability program to improve as much as possible our industry’s dependency on non-sustainable materials, which in an industry that makes products that in the majority are designed to last outdoors for long as possible, is no easy task.”
BVO: Where do you foresee the industry in five years and how will the NZSDA continue to be a viable voice for members?
Lowe: “Our industry is in general very busy, the demand for skilled labour shows this. Research indicates our members are diversifying their services into graphic design and printing, amongst others. The future outlook is generally positive with many looking at investing in more and diverse equipment and staff. While COVID may change the way we work, it won’t hold back this industry for long.
“Adaptation and flexibility are strong business attributes which the NZSDA promote and assist its members with. The NZSDA role will remain as a source of information and assistance to its members along with promotion of the industry to the public. With technology, legislation, regulation and environmental issues only increasing more each year, the role the NZSDA plays assisting our members in these areas along with organising industry events such as our National Sign Awards, annual NZSDA conference, training initiatives and networking access will assist to keep us relevant within our industry.”