Trade training groups are pushing the Government to put trainees who lose their apprenticeship on a benefit so they can finish it.
Industry training groups say apprentice numbers in building and construction fell by up to 15% over the past year.
Apprenticeship Training Trust general manager John Berridge says one or two apprentices a week are being "handed back" by tradespeople because they do not have the building work to keep them employed.
Mr Berridge says he has written to Prime Minister John Key proposing that apprentices facing the axe should be put on leave without pay by their employer and given a government benefit.
Mr Berridge also wants a benefit for new apprentices taken on in the current economic climate so employers do not have to pay a wage until the trainees are commercially viable.
The Plumbing, Gasfitting and Drainlaying industry training organisation says it is vital the Government acts now so there are not shortages of qualified tradespeople in five years.