Tradie shortage leaves employers desperate

A serious shortage of builders, plumbers, drain-layers and other construction jobs has left some employers desperate.

Bruce Trenwith, owner of one Auckland plumbing company, told Newshub he advertised for six months to find a qualified plumber but had no luck. He then sought help from Master Plumbers.

"Master Plumbers advertised overseas, they found an Australian plumber and we took him on about four weeks ago," Mr Trenwith said.

He believes the issue lies with a lack of businesses taking on apprentices, which he thinks is because it's a big expense for small businesses.

"Only about 20 percent of employers actually train apprentices," says Mr Trenwith.

"You'll be paying [apprentices] under immediate and direct supervision, so you make nothing off them in the first year. There's no support there for employers to do so."

Mr Trenwith says the Government needs to do more with helping fund apprenticeships.

"You can't expect industry to carry all the training costs," he says.

Along with plumbers, industry representatives say there's also a shortage of drain-layers, scaffolders and builders.

Cook Brothers Construction regional manager Craig Hopkins told Newshub he could probably take on another 10 builders at the moment.

"I think if you look around just about every construction company would be taking on builders if they were available," he said.

He says New Zealand needs to recruit more builders from overseas to meet demand - and demand is so hot, it's good money for those entering the industry.

"The gas and mining seems to have sort of dried up so a lot of Canadian builders are heading this way," Mr Hopkins said.

"Obviously anytime you have a shortage the rates keep going up, so you can make quite a nice living out of being a carpenter, that's for sure."

Mick Curran, owner of Auckland scaffolding company Upright Access Systems, has called the situation "dire."

"We've got a lot of work but not a lot of experienced scaffolders left to train the young guys coming through," he said.

Scaffolding is on Immigration New Zealand's "Immediate Skill Shortage" list and Mr Curran is currently bringing in employees from overseas.

But he says he'd also like to train more locals.

"We've got a gateway programme with Manurewa High School. Three of their boys come to us every week," Mr Curran said.

"It's a process, it takes time. You've got to get them young and train them up.".

Nineteen-year-old Asaeli Mapa started working for Mr Curran last year after finishing up at Sir Edmund Hillary Collegiate in south Auckland last year.

He says he's enjoying doing something "hands-on", and he encourages young people to consider building and construction as a career.

The Government recently announced a $7 million investment in apprenticeships and industry training over the next four years.

"This was in addition to the funding for industry training of 14.4 million over four years in Budget 2016 which will support over 2000 apprentices," says Louise Upston, Associate Minister of Tertiary Education, Skills and Employment.