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Government must rethink support for apprentice training

The government needs to put trade training and tertiary education on the same footing if New Zealand is to ever grow its own trade-skilled workforce, says MTA (Motor Trade Association).

New research from management consultancy firm Scarlatti shows apprentices will have earned much more by the age of 28 than many university graduates will at the same age. However, the cost of industry training falls largely on the employer whereas the government invests billions of dollars into tertiary education.

“The imbalance has led to a dire shortage of qualified tradespeople and this is impacting on the growth of many businesses,” says MTA Chief Executive Craig Pomare.

“The government puts huge resources into universities and polytechs but leaves employers to almost fully absorb the cost of apprenticeship training. Many businesses are so short staffed they can no longer afford the time and resources needed to train apprentices. They need additional support and some creative thinking to solve this dilemma.”

The current shortage of skilled, qualified tradespeople is largely due to government withdrawing its support from employers in the early 1990s. This shift in resources also meant fewer young people in schools were given opportunities to take up a trade.

“As a result, careers advisors and school programmes are now very focused on getting students into university.

“New Zealand doesn’t need more accountants or lawyers, we need more builders, panel beaters, mechanics, plumbers and other trades people,” he said.

Mr Pomare said almost all motor trade businesses are owned and run by people who were once apprentices.

“This career progression is the same in most trades - young people start as apprentices and many end up managing or owning the business. Really successful tradies can end up running massive companies. Schools and the government need to get their head around this and start putting more resources into supporting apprentice training.”