The Waikato's construction sector is feeling the effects of a building boom and is desperate to recruit more apprentices.

Late last year a report predicted a solid increase in construction over three years, which would total $100 billion.


And the Building and Construction Industry Training Organisation (BCITO) has launched a push for new apprentices to meet the skill shortage.


Jamie Burtenshaw, who has been working for one year as a plastering apprentice at Exterior Innovation, said he found it "easy as" to find a job.


"There's a lot of plasterers out there looking for a boy."


Burtenshaw got in contact with some people in the industry, telling them he wanted work. Within a week he had two calls.


He said there was a lot of turnover of apprentices though; plenty of people couldn't handle the long days and physical work.


A gradual increase in workload had begun in the Waikato, Master Builders president for the region Steve Ross said.


The Waikato was in a better position than Auckland or Christchurch, but was still seeing work start to pile up.


"I would say 12 to 18 months' time it's going to be a real struggle," Ross said.


"[We're] not run ragged at the moment but it's going that way."


Tradies such as electricians, plumbers, painters and gib stoppers were also in demand, he said. The shortage would get worse if there weren't newly-trained young people to join the workforce but employers often battled with the work ethic of today's generation.


"They want to be paid a million dollars and do nothing. That's pretty much what it comes down to."

However employers around the region were looking for apprentices and would be willing to hire if they found the right one, Ross said.


At Waipa Bricklayers, Howard Bright had taken on three new apprentices over the last 18 months. About two years ago he had a staff of five and now he's got 11.


"I could still use more," he said.

He agreed it could be hard to find apprentices willing to muck in and accept a training wage but said there were rewards for employers who put the effort in to help them through.


And demand for the construction industry isn't expected to settle down soon.

A three-year construction boom worth $100 billion was forecast in the National Construction Pipeline report, released in October 2014.


The construction sector had grown by nearly nine per cent since 2012, outstripping the wider economy, chief executive Ruma Karaitiana said.


The typical apprenticeship took three-and-a-half to four years so it was important to get more apprentices training in areas with emerging skill shortages. That included brick and blocklayers and painters and decorators.


And tradespeople who were qualified to supervise were "like gold", Karaitiana said.

There was a "dramatic shortage" of scaffolders, and shortages in the domain of draftsmen and quantity surveyors.


Waikato architects are also noticing more confidence in the construction sector.


Chow:Hill, which essentially worked in commercial and institutional architecture, found work had "slowly been ramping up" over the last year, director Brian Squair said.


The firm could also predict its revenue forecasts six months out, compared to three months during the recession, he said.


And Evan Mayo's small practice, Architecture Bureau, was booked out for at least three to four months with residential work.


LIBBY WILSON

-Waikato Times

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