The Building and Construction Industry Training Organisation (BCITO) is experiencing unprecedented growth in new apprenticeships, but the construction industry still remains woefully short on skilled tradespeople.
Now with 9000 apprentices in training, having signed on an average of 106 new sign-ups per week in 2014, BCITO chief executive Ruma Karaitiana says it’s still not enough to meet growing demand.
“All of the construction trades across the board, from carpentry to painting and brick & blocklaying, are under huge amounts of pressure, and all the data says this pressure will continue into the 2020s,” he says.
“We’ve come out of a period where, because of the recession, we weren’t building enough houses to maintain normal demand, particularly in Auckland. Then, unfortunately, we had the Christchurch earthquakes leading to large rebuild projects, which have only compounded the pressure.
The result is an extremely high demand environment and we simply don’t have the number of skilled tradespeople to meet that demand.”
Mr Karaitiana says the industry needs to spend more time and resources planning for its future skills and labour needs, and individual businesses need to stay in tune with the rest of the industry.
“This demand is going to go on for some time, so there needs to be a much more structured approach. Construction businesses need to be thinking about what their business demands are next year and then considering what they should be doing now to meet those demands.”
While thinking and planning is naturally largely based on individual order books, Mr Karaitiana believes businesses also need to step back and look at the whole industry, which is showing growth trends further into the future.
“One of the very real challenges we have is around the population — the construction industry wants the same people for its future that the engineering, farming and technology sectors want for their industries.
“Planning for the construction industry therefore means we need to understand what people might be available in the marketplace, and whether we should be more pre-emptive with our training and hiring decisions.”
As a result of industry growth, the BCITO recently signed up its 9000th apprentice — Deniro Larsen-Marsters of Auckland, a graduate of Te Puni Kokiri’s Maori Cadetship Programme.
Active since mid-2013, and in partnership with the BCITO, the programme supports unqualified Maori tradespeople into the industry, helping to alleviate demand for skilled workers.
The six-month cadetship is designed to give Maori in full-time employment the skills and experience to prepare them for further training and a career in the construction industry.
Following the cadetship, cadets are encouraged to transfer into an apprenticeship through the BCITO where they can go on to become qualified tradespeople or project or site managers.