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'Massive workforce crisis' building
Bay of Plenty Times, Tauranga Bay of Plenty  by Carmen Hall
25 Sep 2023
General News - Page 1 - 973 words - ID 1937478511 - Photo: Yes - Type: News Item - Size: 899.00cm2

Tradie skills shortage despite soaring apprenticeship numbers

ith thousands of Kiwi tradies aged over 65, there are fears the ageW ing workforce will worsen the skill shortage, in spite of apprenticeship schemes booming and more than $652 million paid to employers.

Master Plumbers, Gasfitters and Drainlayers NZ chief executive Greg Wallace said its board found 25 per cent of licence holders across New Zealand were 65 and over.

"If the majority of those retire in the next five years you have to build your industry by 25 per cent just to stay neutral. The thing is we are still not training enough people for the current workforce." He acknowledged residential new builds had tightened but said if interest rates started to decline that could change next year.

"One of the biggest failures we make is we only employ trainees and people when we are booming then we stop. You actually need to train them in all cycles so you keep a more even flow of the workforce.

"So there is a whole lot of things conspiring against us and then you have the cyclone and a massive workforce crisis around that relief." Wallace hoped the Apprenticeship Boost scheme due to end next year would continue. His group was also advocating for new rules targeting industries in need, with employer payments based on apprenticeship performance.

BOP Plumbing and Gas commercial manager Sarah Jamieson agreed the industry had a real issue with retiring tradespeople and that was going to continue to exacerbate its skills shortage.

"We are doing our bit by currently training 13 apprentices, however we need more business to do this and more support around the first 12-24 months while they are just costing a company money." Certified Builders chief executive Malcolm Fleming said about 2700, or less than 10 per cent, of its members were 65 or older.

"It's a reflection that building is a demanding profession on the body, and so those who wish to continue in the workforce past 65 generally transition to less physical roles." Fleming said it had developed an Apprentice Network programme to support carpentry apprentices and their employers across the four years of training and trainee numbers had not dropped.

"For builders who are themselves trade-qualified, it is almost hardwired into them that they also take on an apprentice to continue the traditional knowledge transfer." continued on A2

continued from A1 Master Builders chief executive David Kelly said finding skilled labour was a hot-button issue raised in its State of the Sector findings.

"The sector is working hard to train. Just under two-thirds of respondents are employing apprentices and nearly half of those respondents said the Government's Apprenticeship Boost Scheme was a factor." However, that was just part of the equation. "Projects are growing in complexity and require experienced professional management. In this area, we are competing for talent on an international stage. New Zealand needs a programme to attract workers and simplify the immigration process." Master Electricians marketing and communications manager Daniel Jone said it understood concerns with the skills shortage, ageing workforce, and shrinking pipeline due to population growth.Infometrics data supplied to Master Electricians last year showed there were 21,558 people working in the sector. In 2018 the average age of electricians was 42 and 10 per cent were over 65.

Jone said its Master Electricians Apprentice Challenge had a record high of 317 entrants at the event in August.

It had also advocated for an extension to the Apprenticeship Boost scheme.

BCITO Te Pukenga acting director Greg Durkin said its apprenticeship numbers had jumped 36 per cent from 13,900 to 18,908 from August 2020 to June 2023.

Across its 15 construction trades, 72 per cent were in carpentry making it the most popular choice followed

For builders who are themselves trade-qualified, it is almost hard-wired into them that they also take on an apprentice.

Malcolm Fleming, Certified Builders chief executive pipeline.

He acknowledged industry volumes have flattened this year but it "expects demand for skilled labour to remain high to meet the pressure of retiring tradies and those moving overseas".

A Ministry for Social Development spokesman said since the establishment of Apprenticeship Boost in by painting and decorating (6 per cent), and timber joinery (3 per cent).

Durkin said there were not enough employees in the building and construction sector to meet the needs of the current and future construction August 2020, 19,795 employers had received payments for 60,965 apprentices.

More than $652 million had been paid out to date and the initiative was extended to the end of 2024.

Employers received $500 per month for first-year and second-year apprentices in approved programmes.

A spokeswoman from Waihanga Ara Rau Construction and Infrastructure Workforce Development Council said people were leaving the sector, partly due to ageing.

She said the council was the sector's voice in the vocational education and training system to help build suitable skills.

"Training is the only way the industry is going to get the staff they need." There were 76,815 trainees at New Zealand Qualifications Framework level 7 sub-degree and below last year, a rise of almost 10,000 on the 67,120 in 2021.

The five-year rolling pipeline of construction work according to its Workforce Information Platform had also jumped from $204 billion in July 2020 to $277b now, slightly down from its $296b peak in December 2022.

Currently, there are about 4000 plumbing, gasfitting and drainlaying apprentices.

This has grown from around 3000 in 2021.

Carmen Hall is a news director for the Bay of Plenty Times and Rotorua Daily Post, covering business and general news. She has been a Voyager Media Awards winner and a journalist for 25 years.

Caption Text:
Master Plumbers, Gasfitters and Drainlayers NZ chief executive Greg Wallace.
The plumbing sector is facing an array of issues including a tradie shortfall and an ageing workforce. Photo / 123RF

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