Commercial uses 'coming out' experience to change stigma around trades

A top New Zealand trade apprenticeship organisation has launched a new campaign to dispel concerns about a career in trades and to highlight it as an attractive opportunity.

The Building Construction Industry Training Organisation's (BCITO) new campaign includes a commercial titled 'A Tricky Chat' where a man uses a 'coming out' experience to his parents to announce he wants to become a tradie.

BCITO's chief executive, Warwick Quinn, said the commercial was about trying to change the stigma that a trade is a dead-end job or not as valuable as a university qualification.

In the video, the parents react with shock to their son's announcement, with the father wanting him to instead follow him into a career, like accounting.

"I wanted him to follow me into a profession, something that's more traditional," he says.

While his mother describes it as possibly being a "phase", his father says he doesn't "know where we went wrong" and asks why he couldn't be more like his sister who has a qualification.

"I will have a qualification, I just won't have the debt," says the son.

It comes as New Zealand's construction sector continues to struggle with finding people to fill the gaps.

"There is plenty of work. We are screaming out for skills.

"Once you start off as a tradesperson, you can go on and be a supervisor or own your own business… the world is open to you."

BCITO suggests New Zealand's construction sector will need an extra 57,600 employees by 2026. As a benefit of the skills shortage, employers are more likely to pay more to find someone.

The decision to focus in on the relationship between a child and his parents was important, as Mr Quinn said parents and other figures of authority can be incredibly influential over a child's direction in life.

"We know from research over the last year or two, that certainly school kids, a lot of their decisions are made on how their influencers advise them… they take a lot of their lead from what they have to say," he said.

"We felt the best way to actually try and change the mind-set around the trades is to not necessarily go to the school kids, but go to their parents and go to their teachers, because they are the ones that point their children in the direction they think is best for them."

He said some of the snobbery around the trades related to a long-held view that they didn't bring as much value to society or were only held by those from a lower class.

"We know that a tradesperson earns as much and creates as much wealth as a university graduate during their working life, so there are a lot of predetermined views which are based on wrong information and we need to change that," said Mr Quinn.

Mr Quinn said his key advice to parents is to be "open-minded" about the opportunities available to their children.

"Do some more research, do some thorough thinking about it, jump online, talk to people before you make your views, and do it with your child," he said.

Mr Quinn said he understands the attitude towards trades won't change overnight, but by using new and different ways of addressing the issue, he hopes to see some difference.