Builders in short supply

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YVONNE O’HARA
yvonne.ohara@alliedpress.co.nz

 

Many Central Otago building companies are struggling to find skilled carpenters for residential construction projects in Central Otago.
Also, the supply of trained builders is not keeping pace with demand, New Zealand Certified Builders (NZCB) Otago regional president Sacha Gray says.
He said while the shortage of skilled carpenters might be exacerbated by the future demand from projects such as the new hospital building planned for Dunedin, or the planned $200 million develop­ment in Invercargill’s city centre, NZCB members said they were struggling to keep up with current demand for residential building work in Central Otago.
The problem is nationwide.
‘‘The shortage of builders was because of the building sector’s typical boom-bust cycle, where a period of low demand for builders leads to a drop in the number of trade trainees/ apprentices, which then leads to a shortfall in the supply of builders when demand picks up again,’’ Mr Gray said.
However, Otago Polytechnic Central campus tutor Simon Brookes said the polytechnic had introduced a new pre-trade course to meet demand for workers, because of the number of new residential homes being built.
‘‘We are looking to help fill that need for more builders with our carpentry pre-trade level three course,’’ he said.
He said the new course provided basic skills and from there trainees would go on to ITAB apprenticeships.
Lindsay Breen, of Breen Construction Ltd, agreed there was a shortage of construction trades workers in the wider Central Otago region, but said it was being alleviated to some extent by tradespeople coming from Christchurch.
‘‘Although this will help the situation, I think the overall result is that we are short of skilled labour to deal with the current project workloads in Otago.’’
Mr Breen said there was always a need to increase the number of people being trained for the industry.
‘‘This is as much about the industry being prepared to invest in it as it is around training organisations.’’
Central Blue Ltd owner Owen Philip agreed there was a shortage of staff in the industry.
He was training his fourth and fifth apprentices.
‘‘The trouble is there is not much of an incentive from central government to the employer [to train apprentices].
‘‘By the third year of training, we break even and by the fourth year they start to make us money.
‘‘However, I don’t think I will do any more apprentices as it is a cost, and the compliance — it is expensive.’’
However, the new Government’s free-fees scheme for up to the first two years of an apprenticeship might make a difference, he said.
NZCB played a key role in attracting and retaining people in the carpentry trade and supported the Industry Training Association Building (ITAB) apprenticeship training, he said.
‘‘While the number of people entering trades training at a national level remained static in the first quarter of 2018, Otago Polytechnic’s intake of ITAB apprentices to date in 2018 is up 25% on last year.