New Zealand’s building and construction skills gap had some relief when 42 apprentice plumbers, electricians, gasfitters and drainlayers graduated at the ATT (Apprenticeship Training Trust) awards recently in Auckland and a further nine graduated in Christchurch.

The apprentices are part of ATT’s managed apprentice scheme, that recruits, employs and places apprentices into host businesses with the aim of providing trade training opportunities for Kiwis and delivering quality tradespeople to the construction industry.

Helen Stephens, Chief Executive ATT, says the market the graduates are entering is one of the most challenging and exciting ever seen in New Zealand.

“The construction sector is booming, our population is growing but the skills gap continues to widen with an estimated 80,000 more people needed in the sector overall, during the next five years – the result is our apprentices will be sought after.

“This lack of supply over demand bodes well for their long term careers.  They are already well set up having earned through their 4 or 5 years of training, and have the prospects of being a busy employee, or a business owner and leader in the future.”

Recent research shows tradies by the age of 28 have earned $165,000 more than Bachelor degree peers, when at the same time most Uni graduates are still paying off student debt and have some years to go.  This extra earning capacity helps pay for house deposits, build up Kiwisaver, settle down and enjoy leisure pursuits.

“Being a tradie is hard work but there’s plenty of gain, especially in a market crying out for their skills,” she says.

The need for more Kiwis to pick up the tools is supported by the Government’s recent announcement of a $2,000 scholarship to the top vocational student in every high school nationally, to be put in place by the end of this year.

Another sign of the Government’s support was the announcement of a Centre of Vocational Excellence (CoVE) for the construction sector.

Helen Stephens added there is also a need for more women to enter the trades.

“While we need more apprentices overall, we also want more women to see this as a career opportunity,” she says.  “Women bring balance, and a different way of working or perspective to a team, and customers love them – there’s a huge opportunity for women in this space.”

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