Solid planning tools essential for industry future

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New Zealand is currently in one of the longest and strongest periods of growth in residential construction in our history.

The challenges inherent in delivering at this pace are well-documented, and contain many moving parts within the public and private sectors. As one of the Government’s lead economic agencies, the Ministry of Business Innovation and Employment (MBIE) has a key role to play.

Because New Zealand’s construction sector has traditionally been characterised by boom-bust cycles which work against a desire to train and keep high quality workers, we are working on a wider programme to forecast and to smooth these cycles.

At the same time, we are also accelerating the numbers of young Kiwis in trades-related apprenticeships. Recently, the Building and Construction Industry Training Organisation (BCITO) reported it had 10,123 apprentices for the first time, as at October 31, 2016.

First, a little about the wider initiatives before we look at workforce development and apprenticeships: In August 2016, the fourth edition of the National Construction Pipeline Report — a forward look at the next six years of construction activity nationally, and by region — was published by the MBIE.

For the first time this year, a companion report, The Future Demand for Construction Workers, was released. The report provides estimates of employment growth in construction-related occupations at national and regional level to the end of 2021.

An interactive web tool has also been developed that enables users to select, view and download a range of information from both reports.

Examples of occupations that are expected to experience the largest growth in the next six years are electricians (14%), plumbers (13%) and civil engineering professionals (11%).

There is also strong growth predicted for project builders and carpenters, amongst other construction-related occupations.

Solid planning tools such as this are essential, and allow better workforce planning by construction firms while encouraging expanded training by education providers and rising levels of apprenticeships.

The Government is supporting the industry to train more skilled workers to meet the demand. Budget 2016 provided $24 million for apprentices and Maori and Pasifika (All) Trades Training.

This will support a further 5500 apprentices and 2500 young Maori and Pasifika learners in MPTT programmes this year, and an expected 3400 next year.

The aim of the Maori and Pasifika Trades Training initiative is to enable more Maori and Pasifika learners, aged 18 to 34, to obtain practical New Zealand trades apprenticeships and employment qualifications.

There are a number of initiatives already targeted at improving youth engagement in trades-based training, such as the joint ITO “Got a trade” campaign, Maori Pasifika Trades Training, and Youth Guarantee and Trades Academies.

In addition, Auckland Tourism, Events and Economic Development (ATEED) is launching the #BuildAKL social media campaign, designed to encourage youth to enter construction and related fields to capitalise on the boom in construction in Auckland.

As a result of running the Licensed Building Practitioner scheme, the MBIE continues to foster strong working relationships with all of the main ITOs who are responsible for providing formal trade and higher level qualifications to new entrants to the sector.

Additionally, the MBIE’s Sector Workforce Engagement Programme (SWEP) is focused on improving employers’ access to reliable, appropriately skilled staff at the right time and place, while creating work opportunities for New Zealanders, including young people and those currently on benefits.

It engages with key employers and education providers, and is progressing well with the development of a number of development project-based Jobs and Skills Hubs, such as Ara — with one likely to be located at Wynyard Quarter and another to support the Tamaki redevelopment.

New Zealand’s economic success will depend on increasing the skill levels and opportunities of Maori and Pasifika peoples, who will make up an increasing part of our national workforce in the future.

The MBIE is working hard to grow New Zealand for us all. Supporting more people into apprenticeships in the construction sector while smoothing the peaks and troughs is a work in progress, but New Zealand apprenticeship levels are at a record high.