Lack of technology teachers could hurt desperate construction industry

There's a warning the construction industry will suffer in the next five years from a looming shortage of technology teachers. Many are nearing retirement and fear there's no one to replace them.

Pukekohe High School has three technology teachers with 125 years of design and build knowledge between them, but not for long. Janni Zwarts, former head of global design for Danske Mobler, will retire in two years. Seventy-four-year-old Roger Barlow has tried to bow out twice.

"Our situation would be replicated throughout the country - that's why it's a crisis," says faculty manager of technology at Pukekohe High School Dave Cantley.

The secondary teachers' union claims 20 percent of New Zealand's teachers are older than 60. But those sowing the seeds for our future builders, furniture makers, sparkies and plumbers say no one's lining up to take over from them.

"Unless something drastic is done we are going to have a massive shortage of qualified people to teach the subjects we need," says PPTA regional executive officer Roger Barlow.

Up until the '90s many tradies after their paid apprenticeship would spend 20 years on the tools, then opt for a career as a technology teacher. But with industry salaries now in excess of $100,000, it's little wonder few are choosing the classroom.

"They have to have a year off to get a qualification to teach," says Mr Cantley. "If they want a degree they need four years. They are probably going to need a student loan, and they are probably going to come out on $45,000 a year, so why would anybody do that?"

Education Minister Chris Hipkins acknowledges there's a problem, saying an Education Workforce review is underway to work out how many teachers are needed and in which subjects.

"I've spoken to a lot of people who'd like to spend the last 15 years of their working life passing on their skills to others," he says. "At the moment there are some roadblocks and challenges. I think we can work through those. That should be a priority."

Some educators feel one option to attract tradies to teaching would be to fast-track their training and give credit for industry experience, because without them some say practical tech courses in schools could disappear.

Of course money talks - something teachers are vowing to chip away at. They started negotiations with the Government this week.