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Building up the trades

Those working in Wairarapa’s trade industries have told the Times-Age they’re delighted by the government’s recent 2023 budget announcement extending funding for the Apprenticeship Boost initiative – and that was before Labour promised it will make the scheme permanent should they win the next election.

The subsidy first came into play nationwide as a temporary pandemic measure in 2020, to mitigate a lack of qualified and skilled tradespeople during a housing and development boom.

The Apprenticeship Boost initiative, which was due to end in December 2024, would cost $420 million over four years to keep it in place permanently.

There are currently 458 students enrolled at UCOL’s Wairarapa campus, and director Carrie McKenzie said the institution is happy for any funding that continues to help people into industries and trades.

“The boost is great, as is any initiative that helps people get training and jobs,” McKenzie said.

“It’s a good thing for us and the community.”

Although national enrolments across polytechnic institutes were down, McKenzie has observed growing numbers of Wairarapa students enrolling in UCOL.

UCOL officially merged with the national tertiary body Te Pukenga late last year, along with fifteen other national polytechnic institutes.

UCOL Wairarapa had its open day last Wednesday, which McKenzie said was the first time the event included other trade institutions because, as part of Te Pukenga, they are no longer business competitors.

“It’s better for the student this way,” McKenzie said.

“It’s a one-stop shop – the student doesn’t mind who it comes from as long as they get the support they need.”

Another division of Te Pukenga, The Building and Construction Industry Training Organisation [BCITO], reported 21,600 apprentices across their 16 trades in March 2022.

This number was up 55 per cent from August 2020, when 13900 apprentices were recorded.

The number of employers supporting apprentices had also increased from 6900 to 9500 in the same time, a jump of over 37 per cent.

BCITO Director Jason Hungerford said apprentice numbers are now at record levels since the Apprenticeship Boost was introduced in 2020.

“New Zealand continues to need qualified workers, and to have an innovative and responsive education system, targeted investment in vocational training is vital,” Hungerford said.

Also pleased with the continued funding boost for apprenticeships is local Wairarapa MP Kieran McAnulty.

Speaking to the Times-Age before Labour’s conference promise, he said it must be the most universally popular policy the government had delivered.

“We know that over the next five to 10 years many tradespeople will retire,” McAnulty said.

“It’s massively important that we invest in apprenticeships to fill these gaps and meet demand for the record number of houses being built.”

Bella Cleary
Bella Cleary
Bella Cleary is a reporter at the Wairarapa Times-Age, originally hailing from Wellington. She is interested in social issues and writes about the local arts and culture scene.

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