Companies with apprenticeship schemes preferred for Government building projects

The Government says it's no longer going to go for the cheapest quote when it comes to building projects.

Construction companies that offer apprentice training schemes will now get preferential treatment - even if it means taxpayers pay more for the work.

John Tautari, 18, had a proactive approach to on-the-job training by simply walking onto the first site he saw asking for an apprenticeship. They said yes.

"I feel actually lucky that I got on the right boat to skill-up and everything - so that was good," he said.

But employers like the one Tautari works for aren't always as lucky - their competitors who don't invest in training can afford to undercut them on quotes for Government builds and mid-size local companies lose out.

"They promote a lot of their money towards that health and safety and for another contractor outside to come in and tender and succeed because of the price has got to stop," Miles Construction director Colin Dodd said.

As part of the Government's construction skills action plan announced today, bidders who can prove their contractors and subcontractors provide training opportunities are more likely to win projects even if they're more expensive.

In respect to some Government contracts, there might be a slight increase in costs in the short-term - but in the long-term costs will come down because you have more trained staff," Economic Development Minister David Parker said.

Eighteen percent of construction jobs are Government contracts and that's likely to increase with KiwiBuild.

Construction is New Zealand's fifth-largest industry, employing one in 10 people but when it comes to training it performs especially badly - only an estimated 10 percent of companies offer that opportunity.

That's contributed to a shortage of 30,000 skilled workers - this initiative alone is expected to fill a gap of just 1500, with a particular focus on opportunities for Maori, Pasifika and women.