Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says the Government “will always be very cautious” and doesn’t want to get ahead of itself when asked about the timing of a potential move to alert level 1.

Ardern spoke to media at the launch of Auckland’s Manukau Institute of Technology Construction Centre of Vocational Excellence.

Acknowledging a question about the changing of alert levels, Ardern said they would be considering things over the next few days – including the number of active cases appearing each day.

“We will always be very cautious…we don’t want to get ahead of ourselves,” she said.

Cabinet is meeting on Friday to review New Zealand’s alert levels. Auckland is at what Ardern has described as alert level 2.5 while the rest of the country is at alert level 2.

She once again called for people not to get together for any large gatherings.

Ardern acknowledged that such times when that was more likely to happen were during weekends.

“Making sure that we reduce the risk as much as possible – and we know, some of the most at-risk times tend to be at the weekends, for instance.

“So that’s why I implore again, Aucklanders, to apply those rules.

“Please don’t join gatherings of more than 10 people, think carefully about your activities, stay safe.”

Ardern also touched on the partners and family members of New Zealand citizens or permanent residents who are still overseas and not eligible to enter the country.

She said that issue did need to be “the next cab off the rank”.

Building apprenticeships may start at school

Students may be able to start building apprenticeships while still at school through a new collaborative training scheme that aims to get trainees into paid work faster.

The new Construction Centre of Vocational Excellence, based at the Manukau Institute of Technology (MIT), also aims to drive changes across the construction training sector such as new technologies, environmental sustainability and recruiting more women, Māori and Pasifika trainees.

It’s one of two new centres of vocational excellence launched by Ardern today as part of the Government’s broader vocational training reforms that are bringing all regional polytechnics and industry training under a national NZ Institute of Skills and Training.

The other new centre, the Food and Fibre Centre of Vocational Excellence, will be hosted by the Eastern Institute of Technology in Hawke’s Bay.

Both are “virtual” centres – networks of people working on projects to drive changes across the country, each with funding of $5 million a year for five years.

MIT’s executive general manager academic Professor Martin Carroll said the construction centre would aim to get trainees into paid work faster by working with a much wider range of small building employers.

“In some cases it’s going to involve starting people on their route to a paid trades job while still at school. It might mean starting apprenticeships while still in school,” he said.

“In some cases it’s going to mean challenging this long-cherished idea of a five-year apprenticeship – this idea of time served in the workplace.

“And with only 10 per cent of small and medium enterprises (SMEs) taking on apprentices, we need to provide employers with more support so that some of them may be willing and see the value in taking on learners.

“The first thing that will make it easier is talking to them about why they are not taking on apprentices and finding out from them what support they need.”

He said some employers might need help with how to train an apprentice and assess their progress – perhaps from other employers acting as mentors.

They would also need financial support.

“There will have to be a look at funding arrangements for apprentices,” he said.

“Most employers want to be able to charge out their workers at full rates as soon as possible, but over a period of time they have become not confident that on-campus learning was producing people who were not only work-ready but ready for work. So it’s going to be a meeting of minds between employers and trainees that we haven’t had before.”

The centre of excellence consortium includes MIT, Unitec, Te Wānanga o Aotearoa, Ara Institute of Canterbury, the Building and Construction Industry Training Organisation (BCITO), the Skills Organisation, the Construction Sector Accord, the Construction Industry Council, Vertical Horizonz and Connexis.

There are also 32 associate members with that number expected to grow.

The initiative comes as second half-year enrolments for trades and engineering courses at MIT have jumped by 59 per cent above last year as people retrain after losing jobs due to the Covid recession.

MIT's new trades training school will accommodate a 59 per cent jump in second-half-year enrolments in trades and engineering courses. Photo / Supplied
MIT’s new trades training school will accommodate a 59 per cent jump in second-half-year enrolments in trades and engineering courses. Photo / Supplied 

The institute’s new $55 million trade training school is now nearing completion across the road from its existing Manukau City campus which opened in 2014.

Hipkins said UCOL in Palmerston North has seen a 37 per cent growth in July and August enrolments compared with the same period last year, while Weltec in Wellington has seen a more than 20 per cent increase in its enrolment for construction and engineering courses.

“Eastern Institute of Technology is also reporting a 22 per cent increase in enrolments for its free targeted trades training programmes including horticulture, electrical engineering and carpentry courses.

“According to BCITO, the number of apprentices signed up during July and August this year compared to last year has gone up from 1436 in 2019 to 3860 in 2020 – that’s an increase of 169 per cent.

“The Primary Industry Training Organisation also reports that 313 more apprentices signed up this year compared to the same period in 2019 – an increase of 105 per cent.”

A passion for building

Former printer Tony Creighton has finally found his passion as a trainee carpenter at the age of 53.

Creighton, who started a one-year Certificate in Construction Trades Skills (Level 3) at Manukau Institute of Technology in June, has spent most of his working life in printing.

Tony Creighton is pursuing his passion to become a builder. Photo / Dean Purcell.
Tony Creighton is pursuing his passion to become a builder. Photo / Dean Purcell. 

“I fell into it, rather than something I really wanted to do,” he said.

“I enjoyed it for quite a while, but I got bored with it and I’m just trying to find something else.”

He has always enjoyed swinging a hammer – “built a shed and all that sort of stuff”.

“When I decided I wanted to do something, I took a long time to think about it and I realised this is what I want to do.”

Despite a disruptive start with Auckland’s level 3 lockdown, he is “loving” the construction course.

“It’s very practical. It’s probably hands-on 70 to 80 per cent of the time.

“I’m learning new stuff, and the stuff that I did know I’m learning to do it better.”

He has never done any formal training outside work before since he left school, so he has qualified for the fees-free scheme saving him course fees of almost $6000.

“It’s handy, that’s for sure.”

It’s still early days, but he hopes to get a job in the building industry when the course ends in the middle of next year.

“What I learnt is that a lot of the employers out there are looking as if they have done a course like this,” he said. “That’s one of the reasons I looked into it.”