The construction industry: A lasting legacy
13 January, 2021 2 min read
Walter H Sommer OAM
3 February 1941 – 24 November 2020
Tradesperson, CEO, industry leader, board member, policy maker. Attaining any one of these roles in the building and construction industry is an achievement. Walter Sommer excelled at all of them.
Born into eastern Europe during World War II, Walter trained as a bricklayer before emigrating to Australia and qualifying as a carpenter and joiner. He worked in Papua New Guinea, for AVJennings in Sydney and Allen Constructions in Brisbane. Walter brought drive, passion and determination with him. In the 1970s, he founded Sommer and Staff, creating a respected, commercial Brisbane-based builder which traded for some 40 years.
Walter’s commitment to the industry is as diverse and deep as his work history. Walter gave back. Past President of the Queensland Master Builders Association, building arbitrator and, importantly, extensive roles in skills development – member of the State Training Council, Chair of the Queensland Housing and Construction Group Training Scheme, board member of Construction Training Australia, member of the State Planning and Development Committee for vocational education and training, and fortuitously for CSQ, Chair of Construction Training Queensland the forerunner to CSQ.
Walter brought an unwavering commitment to training and development. He deeply understood and valued the connection between skills currency and employment. Today the need for ongoing training is a defining feature of our industry. It keeps our sites moving. It keeps our workers safe.
Walter was able to bring a unique mix of firsthand experience and policy drive and determination to the challenge of creating a responsive, flexible and affordable training for an industry with a diverse, dispersed and frequently sub-contracting workforce. As Chair of Construction Training Queensland, Walter advocated for and oversaw the introduction of an industry wide training levy. Today, this levy sees our industry consistently invest in skills development and our workforce achieve an average of 7.3 VET enrolments per hundred workers (next highest is manufacturing at a 3.8 average).
For his efforts, Walter was awarded an Order of Australia Medal (OAM) in 2004 for ‘service to the building and construction industry through the development of industry-based training programs’. His contributions to the sector and as a distinguished builder were also recognised by QUT.