The ‘saviours of our industry’ — what will work for them?

Terry Sage of Trades Coaching New Zealand

By Terry Sage, Trades Coaching New Zealand


They say don’t start a discussion with an apology — it’s neither polite nor good business etiquette.

Sorry, I forgot who told me that, but I’m sure it was someone of perceived influence.

My apology is based on your probable reaction to the following words. If you don’t agree with it, blame my biggest fan (probably my only fan if I’m honest).

Mr C reprimanded me for not having an article in the September issue of Building Today (I promise, it was not my doing). He then went on to offer the advice to “spice it up a bit”.

So here’s a splash of spice — and if this ends up being my last article Mr C, I’ll come knocking.

You may have already read the stories in this Apprentices/Training feature discussing the current state of play in New Zealand.

Apparently, this is the third such feature Building Today has published in as many years. So my question is: has anything changed in that time?

Of course, the answer is yes, there are definite stats to support change. The answer is also no, as we are still tens of thousands of tradies short.

According to an article I read recently, the BCITO has the highest number of apprentices on the books than at any other time. Fantastic job, and well done to all the training institutions.

We also have the highest number of job vacancies within the industry. I’m not sure if this is the highest ever or just the highest for a long time. Either way, the figure was a staggering 42,000 holes to fill. Wow!

Can we lay the blame for this predicament on anybody? Hell yeah, it’s all your fault (maybe a bit too much spice there Mr C?) — “your” meaning everybody, and not just the poor reader who has just spilt coffee all over their stubbies.

The truth is, it’s not a sudden problem as we’ve known it’s been coming for a while.

It’s not down to one issue or a lack of action on anybody’s part. There are numerous issues at stake, and rather than lack of action maybe it’s down to the wrong action?

Does the industry as a whole need to get out of the office and smell the roses on this issue? I say as a whole, because we cannot rely on the training organisations to fix the problem — it’s too big for just them.

Before we get all hot under the hard hat here, is the problem fixable? Some will say yes, some no — either way something has to happen, so we have to try.

Do I have any answers? If I did I would be working in an odd shaped building, in a windy city roughly in the middle of the country — and who the hell needs that in their lives?

So no, I don’t, and neither do the current crowd down in the middle of the country. So let’s look at it from the world of “keep it simple stupid”.

When I’m coaching clients I try and keep every aspect of business as simple as possible, because the harder you make it, the harder it is to administer.

I’m going to offer up just one gem for you to think about. Forty-something years ago when I left school (got asked to leave school is probably more accurate), getting a trade was looked at as “wow you lucky geezer, well done”.

It was like a step up, a prestigious step, kinda sexy almost.

Now you mention to a 15, 16 or 18-year-old school leaver “why don’t you look at a trade” and they look at you as if you just stepped in something.

Come on movers and shakers, the construction industry is now most certainly not sexy enough anymore — we’ve been left behind by nearly every other industry.

If you really expect these lazy, couch-ridden, thumb-moving-at-a-hundred-mile-an-hour, arrogant, the-world-owes-me-a-life teenagers to get up off the couch, let alone get out of the house and seek an apprenticeship, well, “you’re dreaming mate”.

We’ve all been teenagers, but that doesn’t mean we know what the “new” teenagers are looking for.

For all the marketing brilliance wrapped up in the construction sector, has anyone actually asked the lazy, thumb-moving, you-owe-me kids what will work for them?

There must be a couple of smart ones out there who are able to tell you how to sex up a hard hat and knee brace. And this is essential, because they are the saviour of our universe — well, our industry at least.

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