The construction sector is potentially one of the big winners from the Government announcing the institution of a Targeted Training and Apprenticeships Fund (TTAF).
First mooted as part of the 2020 Budget, the fund aims to pay the costs of learners of any age who undertake vocational education and training.
Education Minister Chris Hipkins says as well as funding all apprenticeships, the fund will target areas of study and training that will give learners better employment prospects as New Zealand recovers from Covid-19.
The TTAF will support vocational programmes from July 1 throughout the rest of 2020 across a wide range of vocations, including a number of construction-related areas such as building, plumbing and civil engineering.
Apprentices and learners whose courses started earlier in the year but continue beyond July 1 will be eligible for a partial refund.
The $380.6 million initiative will support up to 36,000 apprentices per year, including new apprentices, by providing a subsidy to around 18,000 employers.
This initiative is part of a wider Apprenticeship Support Programme designed to keep first and second year apprentices connected to work, connected to training and connected to their communities while New Zealand recovers from the impact of Covid-19.
The Apprenticeship Support Programme covers the Apprenticeship Boost — a broad-based wage subsidy for employers to help them keep existing apprentices and employ new ones; also Mana in Mahi, expanding the existing programme which helps employers provide on-the-job support for employees.
It also covers Group Training Scheme support — funding that ensures the existing seven schemes remain viable by enabling them to continue to employ apprentices and trainees, and provide related services to host businesses.
The Regional Apprenticeships Initiative also gets cover. This supports displaced regional apprentices who have lost their jobs, initially focusing on Maori and Pacific Peoples (funded through the Provincial Growth Fund).
Employers would be able to access support from the Apprenticeship Boost, Mana in Mahi, or the Regional Apprenticeships Initiative depending on the type of apprentice or pre-apprentice trainee they employ.
All employers who have an eligible apprentice will be able to receive a base subsidy rate up to $12,000 per annum for first-year apprentices, and $6000 per annum for second-year apprentices.
Mana in Mahi and some Regional Apprenticeships participants will get a higher subsidy to reflect the different level of need of the individual apprentices or pre-apprentice trainees involved.
The Group Training Scheme Fund is different in design to other initiatives within the Programme as it is geared to maintaining the viability of seven schemes.
The apprentices involved in a Group Training Scheme may also be eligible to attract support from other initiatives, such as the Apprenticeship Boost or Mana in Mahi to contribute to their wage costs.
Other initiatives underway to help people stay in and find employment and training include the Wage Subsidy and the Wage Subsidy Extension, which has been providing employers and sole traders whose revenues have been significantly impacted by Covid-19 with financial support so they can keep their staff employed.
• Meanwhile, the Building and Construction Industry Training Organisation (BCITO) says it is delighted at the Government’s latest announcement, but says the main challenge for the construction sector is gaining and retaining apprentices in the system.
BCITO chief executive Warwick Quinn says for years, the building and construction sector has been calling for support from government for those firms that train apprentices.
“This is the answer we have been waiting for. The Government understands that during recessionary times we need to continue to develop and grow our pipeline of skilled tradespeople. We don’t want to lose our talent.”
Quinn stresses that now it is in the industry’s hands to make the most of what the Government is offering.
“We have been asking for this, so now we must use it to our advantage. It is our job as a sector to step up and make this work.
“Not only do we need to increase capacity, but we also have a responsibility to train and develop good quality tradespeople.
“This financial support will mean employers don’t have to wear the full cost of upskilling them, and can invest more into their training,” he says.
“This announcement will also reassure incoming apprentices and people considering careers in the trades that building and construction remains a good sector to work in.”
Currently, the BCITO has just over 13,000 active trainees and apprentices. Last year, building and construction was New Zealand’s third largest sector, directly contributing $19 billion to the country’s Gross Domestic Product.
Residential building forms the backbone of the sector, accounting for 60% of its revenue, and employing 80% of apprentices.