09The construction industry is booming and needs around 30,000 qualified people in the next five years to meet demand. However, fewer than 1,500 school leavers are currently moving into BCITO apprenticeships each year.
“Right now, we simply don’t have enough skilled people to build our houses and other infrastructure at the pace required to meet our needs,” says BCITO’s chief executive, Warwick Quinn.
BCITO, New Zealand’s building and construction industry training organisation, is meeting the challenge of the ballooning demand head-on by launching a new digital platform, ‘myBCITO’. The web-based, mobile-friendly platform directly engages with teachers and students, who can register to join for free at any time in a very simple online sign-up process with minimal clicks.
BCITO provides hands-on ‘BConstructive’ programmes that lead to qualifications in building, construction, and allied trades skills (BCATS). Quinn says the innovative, practical and multi-disciplinary programmes provide students with the skills and knowledge to springboard into any career in the construction industry.
“They also develop literacy, numeracy and communication skills and have close links with NCEA and the technology curriculum.”
Students can go on to apprenticeships in trades, such as carpentry, brick and blocklaying, painting and decorating, flooring, joinery, plumbing and gasfitting, frame and truss, and aluminium joinery. The programmes also provide a base for related areas of the construction industry, such as architecture, quantity surveying and estimating.
Quinn says BCITO wants to interact earlier with teachers and students to encourage school leavers to see a career in the trades as a good and aspirational career choice.
“We want New Zealanders to see a career in the trades as something to aspire to, not fall into.”
He notes that becoming a qualified tradesperson is only the start of a career in construction and that too many view it based on what they see on site – typically the trades.
“The trades are a great option as you can specialise and own your own business, but there are management and professional careers available that are just as important.”
Quinn says it’s the best time ever for a young person to learn a trade.
“The opportunity to earn while you learn and have the first two years of eligible programmes free of fees makes an apprenticeship an excellent choice for school leavers.”
And the financial benefits might come as a surprise to some, he says.
“Recent research by BERL has confirmed that over a lifetime of work the apprentice earns as much as the university graduate, so both career paths are equally rewarding.”
The reasons for the small number of school leavers going into apprenticeships are quite complex, says Quinn.
“A lot of it has to do with what we as influencers of the young – family, friends, teachers, career advisers – have on their thinking. There is an intergenerational prejudice that says a trades-based qualification is an inferior second choice to a university degree – but that’s a myth. We’re trying to change that perception so that a career in the trades is seen as an aspirational choice for a young person to set themselves up to be financially stable and have good career prospects, just like going to university.”
Quinn believes myBCITO will play a big part in the organisation’s aim of adding 2,000 apprentices a year to the current number.
“At present, there are over 10,000 school kids undertaking BCATS, and we don’t know who they are, what they do when they leave school, and whether they’re interested in a career in construction. By having a one-on-one relationship with them and nurturing and supporting their progression through school, we can provide a clear line of sight into construction and assist in smoothing the pathway into the world of work.”
The three-stage myBCITO platform helps students develop a digital CV where they can gain badges and recognition for skills obtained and showcase the construction-related projects they were involved in. This helps to match them with employers and the particular trade they may be interested in.
The first stage is an introduction to the platform and provides a home base for learners and teachers to keep in touch with BCITO on an individual level.
The second ‘starter’ stage of myBCITO is for post-school career seekers and offers a facility for students and labourers to connect with companies seeking apprentices.
The third stage is an ‘apprentice portal’ for signed-up apprentices and the employers who train them, which is currently being built and is predicted to go live towards the end of 2018.
“This will be where apprentices can access digital learning resources, upload content and examples of their work, connect with their employer [trainer] and their BCITO mentor [training adviser] to share milestones, information and knowledge throughout their apprenticeship,” says Quinn.
“The big impact here is that we’ll be moving from paper-based resources and processes into the digital environment that millennials have grown up with.”
Quinn says myBCITO is a revolution in digital engagement for the construction industry.
“It will dramatically change how we engage with people who are thinking about joining the industry, particularly school leavers. It will also redefine how individuals within industry communicate with us and plan their learning online.”