More apprentices needed as New Zealand construction sector continues to grow
New Zealand’s leading construction training organisation is calling for more apprentices as building consents track towards a 40 year high.
Building consent data released today by Statistics New Zealand shows building consents have continued to grow and are up 2.3% nationally in the first two months of 2017, compared to the same period last year.
At the end of February 2017, 4,170 new building consents had been issued compared with 4,074 at the end of February 2016.
While it is still early days, if this trend continues, and 2017 exceeds the 31,423 new residential consents issued in 2004, it will be the busiest year since the mid-1970s, says Building and Construction Industry Training Organisation (BCITO) Chief Executive Warwick Quinn.
“Almost all regions have shown good growth with only three below their 2016 year-to-date levels. The standout performer in the North Island is the Manawatu/Whanganui region which is up 42% on 2016 year-to-date levels and Marlborough in the South Island which is up 47% for the same period in 2016.
“Auckland is up 1.4%, with 1,312 consents issued to February 2017 compared to 1,293 in the same period in 2016, while the Canterbury region continues to decline post the rebuild, down 15% on 2016 levels.”
These levels mean the demand for skills is exceptionally high, says Quinn. “While the BCITO has record numbers of apprentices in training, more are needed to fill the shortfall. The industry needs around 50,000 new workers over the next five years.
“We are in the midst of one the biggest building booms in recent memory and it is expected to last for many years. Job prospects are excellent.”
Many New Zealanders need to shift their perceptions of the trades, says Quinn. “The trades are not often considered a genuine option for school leavers by their parents, teachers and other influencers, who instead favour a university education.
“South Korea has found this out the hard way. It is implementing an apprentice scheme for the first time in its history as many school leavers were encouraged to attend university but could not find meaningful work when they graduated so the country does not have sufficient skills to build the infrastructure it needs,” says Quinn.
There has never been a better time to get into construction, says Quinn. “As a qualified tradesperson you can become highly successful in a short space of time. Not only do you get a tertiary qualification with no student debt, because of the earn as you learn approach, but construction is a huge and varied industry offering many career paths beyond working on-site. Skilled individuals can go in all sorts of directions from owning their own business, to professional consulting, management, supervision and many more.”
Brad Gemmell qualified as a bricklayer at 21 years of age and hopped on a plane to London, ready to put his skills to the test. He returned to New Zealand a few years later and began his own business, Brad the Brickie Ltd in Wanaka.
Not many employers in the construction sector realise the Government's Fees Free initiative extends to apprenticeships for not one, but two years.