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Future tradies lining up to pick up tools

Apr 11, 2022

Trade training is booming with thousands more people signing up for apprenticeships since the pandemic began.

Industry training leaders say apprentice numbers are spiking in industries associated with house-building.

They say it raises the stakes for the shift of workplace training into the new national polytechnic and vocational education institute, Te Pūkenga.

Building and Construction Industry Training Organisation director, Jason Hungerford, said by the end of March it had 21,600 apprentices, 77 percent more than at the same time in 2020.

He said the demographic mix of trainees had changed too.

"We've actually seen a slight increase in the average age of our apprentice and that reflects the other part of the market that is moving into the sector. We're seeing people shift across from retail, from tourism, and we're also seeing [some] that have been in the wider sector for some time choosing to actually get into formal training and upskill themselves."

Master Electricians chief executive Bernie McLaughlin said apprentice numbers in his industry had risen fast too.

"For electrical apprentices in January 2019 we had about 4450. We've rounded off 2022 with 5810 so we've had a massive increase of about 1300 apprentices in the industry which for us is quite significant," he said.

The increases were happening at the same time as responsibility for industry training was shifting to Te Pūkenga.

McLaughlin said he was not confident the change was a good idea.

He said apprentices would simply walk away and do something else if Te Pūkenga did not do a good job.

"If there is an issue in the training and it becomes to hard, the younger person might just go 'nah, stuff this I'm going to do something else, this is pointless'.

"So it is a worry that if it becomes this big monster that can't provide good service delivery levels that we will start to bleed people out of the vocational training space."

Warwick Quinn is a former Building and Construction ITO head who now works for Te Pūkenga.

He said it was taking no risks with the transition of industry training organisations this year and was "lifting and shifting" them into the new entity without making any changes to the way they ran.

Quinn said there had been a "tremendous" increase in apprentice numbers since the pandemic started.

He said the boom in house construction had combined with a government scheme that paid employers to employ apprentices to drive numbers up.

Quinn said even areas that suffered in the pandemic, such as tourism and hospitality, were starting to recover.

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