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The value of training apprentices

17 May 2019
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Master Plumbers welcomes the Government’s acknowledgement that greater value should be placed on apprenticeships, trades and workplace training.

In his pre-Budget speech to the Wellington Chamber of Commerce this week, Finance Minister Grant Robertson also announced that $197 million will be reallocated from the fees-free tertiary policy to vocational education.

“Improving the quality of training, making it more accessible and more relevant to businesses and regions are excellent goals,” says Master Plumbers Chief Executive, Greg Wallace, “however we believe reallocating this money to the reform of the vocational education sector will do little to increase apprentice numbers and help address the critical shortage of skilled workers.”

“We would like the Government to reallocate this funding to employers to support them while they provide workplace training for our future plumbers, gasfitters and drainlayers.”

As part of their training, apprentices must gain on-the-job experience with a plumbing firm.

There are good quality candidates wanting to become plumbers, but not enough companies coming forward.

For some years now, Master Plumbers have urged the Government to offer financial incentives to support employers who engage in workplace training.

“Training an apprentice is a significant financial investment for a small business, particularly during the first year, when the apprentice represents little value,” Mr Wallace says.

“Currently, only 19 per cent of the industry trains apprentices. And plumbing businesses taking on apprentices receive no government funding – despite the additional time and effort spent training them.”

The announcement that the uptake of fees-free had proved lower than expected did not come as a big surprise to Mr Wallace.

“From our perspective, fewer than 30% of our apprentices were eligible for the initiative,” he says. “The average age of our apprentices is 24 years old and by that age, most people have already done some form of tertiary study that can rule them ineligible for the programme.

“We would support changing the criteria to assist a wider range of apprentice candidates and encourage more people to start a plumbing career. NZ needs plumbers.”

According to the 2017 report ‘Future demand for construction workers released by the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE), demand for construction-related occupations will increase until at least the end of 2022.            

‘Plumbers’ tops the list of construction-related occupations expected to experience the largest growth nationwide at 15 per cent and Auckland tops the list for regional demand at 32 per cent.

The MBIE report says overall construction staff demand in New Zealand will increase by 11 per cent by 2022, to require around 56,000 new employees.

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