Calls for Govt to introduce apprentice quota to meet skills shortage

A building industry training group says firms working on Kiwibuild homes should be required to have apprentices to help solve a severe skills shortage.

Building and Construction Industry Training Organisation (BCITO) and Master Electricians say the Canterbury rebuild was a missed opportunity to upskill New Zealanders because labour was hired offshore.

They describe the shortage as "acute" and "dire", and say it's the same across all trades.

Bernie McLaughlin, Master Electricians CEO, wants apprenticeship quotas imposed on all contractors working on Kiwibuild.

"We'd like one tradesperson to two, or three maximum, trainees," he said.

It comes as the Australian federal government announced one in 10 jobs on its top 10 priority projects will be apprentices, to "arrest the decline in apprenticeships".

There are currently 3600 electrical apprentices nationwide, working towards addressing New Zealand's skills shortage - but it takes between three and four years to qualify.

Mr McLaughlin says the skills shortage at the moment is dire.

And it's thought that's because people weren't trained during the Global Financial Crisis - something that has had ongoing impacts.

Mr McLaughlin wants apprenticeship quotas imposed on any contractors working on KiwiBuild.

Warwick Quinn from the Industry Training organisation says the Canterbury earthquake exposed frailties in our training system.

"If [something like the 2011 earthquake in] Canterbury happened today, we'd be in real trouble because we can't access skills internally."

The rebuild, which used temporary migrant workers, was a missed opportunity to train apprentices.

"There was an opportunity there to train hundreds if not thousands of apprentices - and they'd be qualified tradespeople now, meaning we wouldn't be facing the current skills shortage," Mr McLaughlin says.

Mr Quinn wants a requirement for all government construction here to invest in training, to avoid similar problems in the future.

Construction Minister Jenny Salesa wouldn't comment on a quota, but says the Government is working on a draft plan to ensure Government-funded construction includes a commitment to training.

A Construction Action Plan is due to be agreed next month.