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Builders need to specialise to survive

Media Release
26 July 2006

Builders need to specialise to survive

‘Jack-of-all-trades’ builders are becoming a dying breed as the New Zealand building industry becomes more reliant on specialisation, according to research by University of Auckland masters student Yadeed Lobo.

Yadeed, from the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, has recently completed a thesis into the future skills needs for the building industry over the next 20 years.

His findings dispute prevailing thought that demand for generalist practitioners will increase, with builders widening their skill set to meet shortages.

“This is not the case for the building industry in New Zealand. The findings of the research show that increasing specialisation will be the trend at all skills levels,” he says. “The introduction of occupational licensing will influence this trend until 2010, but ultimately technology will be the key driver that will cause specialisation to occur.”

Occupational licensing means work critical to the structure of a building will need to be carried out by a licensed building practitioner. Voluntary licensing begins 2007 and compulsory licensing begins in 2009.

In addition, his research found that architects were not part of the skills shortage, but rather disenchanted architecture graduates were not taking positions because of low pay.

His study confirmed that New Zealand’s major shortfalls are for civil engineers (especially structural and fire engineers), carpenters, electricians and building officials.

Over 75 percent of those interviewed saw a revitalised training system as essential to dealing with the future needs of the workforce.

“In the past employers have been reluctant to take on apprentices and more recently, training completion rates for apprentices have been low. This has had a detrimental effect on the availability of intermediate skills such as bricklaying,” Yadeed says.

New and growing areas of specialisation identified in the study include fire engineers, and subsets of architecture such as concept architects and back-of-house design architects.

Yadeed’s research was based on 40 interviews with individuals from different sectors and levels of the building industry. His study was funded by the Building Research Levy.


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