Sports stars juggle skills, books and tools

Professional sports players often wonder where to leap after their first careers and the building and construction industry is helping them jump into life after sports and future-proof their careers.

Sam SmithThe Building and Construction Industry Training Organisation (BCITO) now offers training opportunities for professional sports players alongside their sporting careers. It gives sportspeople in New Zealand flexibility, a head start and a taste of building work before they finish sports and move into fulltime trades roles. It also helps fill the skills shortage faced by the building and construction industry. 

It's not uncommon for professional sports players to go from sports to the trades, with 29% of retired rugby players having a trade qualification – including former All Blacks Chris Jack, Richard Kahui and Luke Romano who are all qualified builders. 

BCITO allows flexibility to all sports players playing professionally at national, provincial and club levels. 

Since January this year, BCITO has expanded its offering for professional sportspeople with a new Enterprise Package. This programme offers rugby and league players at a national level the chance to work their way through building theory and undertake the practical components later or when they can. The player is supported and assessed by a BCITO training advisor, and they learn useful tools for their apprenticeship. 

“What the Enterprise Package gives these professional sportspeople is flexibility. Players can dedicate themselves to sport in the season, and pick up their apprenticeship in the other months. They don’t have to choose one or the other, and they have the trades waiting for them once they are ready to retire from playing professionally,” says BCITO Chief Executive Warwick Quinn. 

“The construction trades offer great career options for sportspeople. Building is relatively hands-on work, like sports. You can learn on the job rather than in a classroom, and you get paid while you are training, so transitioning from a sporting career to an apprenticeship reduces the financial impact.

“The level of support we provide our apprentices is similar to the level of support they receive on the field. Training advisors check in with apprentices frequently to make sure they are on track with their apprenticeship and managing to balance their sporting commitments and training.

“The industry needs thousands more apprentices coming through the pipeline to meet demand. We must look further than the usual pool of potential apprentices. Opening the doors for sports players was an obvious solution to helping us achieve this,” says Quinn. 

“Our Enterprise Package supports professional players who are committed to their sport fulltime at this stage in their life. Although rugby has been our focus this year, we are working with more sports organisations to make the Enterprise Package available to a whole raft of sports,” says BCITO Chief Executive Warwick Quinn. 

BCITO’s roll for the Enterprise Packages currently includes three New Zealand All Black Sevens players, nine Warriors and 13 Super Rugby players.

The response to BCITO’s latest initiative has been positive among potential apprentices, and their supporting associations. 
“We are getting feedback from coaches that players in an apprenticeship programme are performing better on the field – more rounded, more grounded,” says Quinn. 

Research undertaken by the New Zealand Rugby Players Association shows that rugby players who studied and/or undertook work experience during their career had a smoother retirement from sports, with 88% saying that having an education or trade is important and 42% saying qualifications helped them gain employment on retirement. 

Sam Smith is an excellent example of someone benefiting from BCITO’s apprenticeship offering. Currently trialling for the Under 20 All Blacks team, the rugby player is also two years into his carpentry apprenticeship. 

“I know I won’t be playing rugby forever, and I don’t want to finish playing professionally or suffer a career-ending injury and be at a loose end. I enjoy being on the tools and learning skills that will be useful for the future. 

“My coaches at the Wellington Academy are really supportive of my apprenticeship and encourage us to study or have a job that fits in around training.”

BCITO now has a project team dedicated to sports liaison to help grow these initiatives across New Zealand and with overseas players.  

Further enquiries, please contact:
Kiri Shannon Acumen Republic on behalf of BCITO
T +64 21 0234 4157

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