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Untrained apprentices could face dismissal

Chronic skills shortage will worsen

Electricians say untrained apprentices could face dismissal

New Zealand’s critical shortage of electricians is now expected to last up to three years, and could have a major impact on the economy.

The Electrical Contractors Association of New Zealand (ECANZ) today warned that homeowners should expect months of delays for major work like rewiring a typical house.

ECANZ says its members are turning down work. The shortage of electricians has prompted major construction companies to be far more cautious about the projects they take on.

But while electricians have more work than they can cope with, they’re also turning away young people seeking or completing apprenticeships.

ECANZ General Manager Ray Barbara says a lack of government funding is to blame. Mr Barbara says New Zealand needs apprentices now more than ever.

“Electrical apprenticeships are now in crisis because the industry lacks adequate government funding for apprentices attending off-job training courses,” he says.

Since 1991, electrical apprentices ‘off-job’ training has been funded by an industry body – the Electrotechnology Industry Training Organisation (ETITO) - which obtains its funds from Government via the ITF (Industry Training Fund).

Mr Barbara says ETITO funding started drying up in August last year, because government allocations for the past two years have failed to keep pace with increasing demand.

“We warned the government of a funding shortfall six months ago. Now, two months into the 2005 year, no further placements can be made.”

Mr Barbara says employers now have few options, and some may eventually be forced to dismiss their apprentices.

“We know training places exist. But the government continues to ignore requests for more subsidies. We find this totally unacceptable - especially when New Zealand is reeling from a skills shortage which can only get worse.”

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