8 Jul 2016

Building industry 'screaming out' for more tradies

12:06 pm on 8 July 2016

The building industry is struggling to recruit apprentices, and parents discouraging their children from entering trades isn't helping, industry leaders say.

More than 1000 New Zealand students have recently been given a taste of the building trade in an effort to push more into the industry's workforce which is struggling to keep up with demand.

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Photo: RNZ / Tom Furley

The demand for new houses is forecast to be more than 28,000 next year but the current labour force can support only 15,000.

The Building and Construction Industry Training Organisation (BCITO) estimates an extra 3000 apprentices are needed to fill the skills shortage as the building industry continues to boom, particularly in Auckland.

Complete Build is one of the companies building about 5000 homes at Hobsonville Point.

One of its directors, Karlan Zink, has 20 apprentices in his 50-strong workforce.

"We all know that the building industry is screaming out for qualified carpenters and people who are good in the trades. Without the fresh blood coming through you're not going to maintain a high standard in the future which as we all know is crucial."

BCITO chief executive Warwick Quinn

BCITO chief executive Warwick Quinn Photo: RNZ / Tom Furley

BCITO expected to hit 10,000 apprentices this month but chief executive Warwick Quinn said in the 15 trades the organisation covered there was probably a 30 percent shortage in apprentices.

"We can't make them fast enough and the sector is really calling out for skills and one of the hand brakes on being able to build the number of homes and other developments in New Zealand is we just don't have the skills."

Training organisations just weren't keeping up, he said.

Students get a taste of the industry

BCITO has organised 30 tours to construction sites and organisations across 14 cities to try and spark students' interest in the industry.

More than 1000 students from 127 different schools have taken part in the tours. For many, it's a chance to see what it's like out of the classroom and on site.

Students gather to learn more about the building industry.

Students gather to learn more about the building industry. Photo: RNZ / Tom Furley

Dilworth student Ata Carter, 17, is one of many already with their hearts set on getting into trade.

"I just want to figure out what I want to do in the future, what kind of trades."

His classmate, Sam Faamoa, said he also wanted to find out more.

"I just want to see what I can do in the future. I don't really know what I want to do in the future so that's why I came."

Kelston Girls' College student Kiana Laifone, 17, also wanted to explore the industry further.

"I like this career path, it's interesting to see how they produce and do what they do.

"I like building, I like the active stuff, not really staying in an office."

In a traditionally male dominated industry there has been a push for women like Kiana to help build up the industry.

"I think girls can do it, it's just they probably feel that because it's such a men's job that they can't do it."

Parents discouraging kids from entering trades

Marcellin College's Director of Pastoral Care Anthony Weijermars said parents tended to drive their children away from the trades.

"They don't want their child to go to trade. They think the big money is in university education.

"It's how to educate the parents. It's this bums on seats attitude at universities that we find the hardest because that's a big sell that they do.

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The building industry needs 30 percent more apprentices to keep up with demand. Photo: RNZ / Tom Furley

Green Bay High School careers advisor Beth Nalter said universities were definitely better at promoting themselves to students.

"The problem has been that the universities are good at promotion, and they're very good at glossy brochures and they're great at making out that that's the only path, so I think as the ITOs (Industry Training Organisations) get better at marketing the trades will get more of a fair show.

"Still, if you looked at our career centre you would see three quarters of the wall is about universities so ITOs need to do a much better job at that."

BCITO's Warwick Quinn said many trades were struggling to promote themselves to students because of the university's strong presence in schools.

He said the tour was "the start of that sort of effort to try and readdress that imbalance".

"We need to change not only the student's idea of where they could go to work but the influences on them, the student's parents, their school teachers, their caregivers, their career advisors, that university may not necessarily be the only option for them."

The tour was an effort to make students aware of the opportunities, he said.

"It's not just necessarily one trade there are many trades out there that can suit a vast number of different students."

The message from Vijay Frame and Truss factory manager Thane Kopua was a simple one.

"What I look for is someone that can turn up every day and is willing to work hard. If you can do that, then you're going to learn everything."

Fletcher Construction on recruting drive

Fletcher Construction is attempting to recruit 100 long-term migrants from the UK - including British workers and New Zealand expats - to work on what it says is a 30-year pipeline of major projects.

Recruitment manager James Brown told Nine to Noon the company needed highly skilled workers for projects such as the Puhoi to Warkworth motorway, the International Convention Centre in Auckland and housing developments.

"We're looking to support our current skilled staff with quantity surveyors, project managers, project directors, design managers - skills that are in New Zealand but skills that we need more of."

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