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Demand for skilled workers across NZ at record high levels

New Zealand needs more than 8,000 new mechanical engineering apprentices to meet the industry’s demand over the next five years. In Auckland alone, more than 3,000 people are needed, with 1,199 in Canterbury and 800 in Waikato.

While the high profile building and construction sector still needs skilled people, mechanical engineering is emerging as the new hotbed for jobs in the trades. The sector is in desperate need of apprentices to meet demand to support the construction and infrastructure sectors, industrial innovation and demand for New Zealand products.

“The mechanical engineering sector, like all engineering sectors is in growth mode, which makes it an exciting sector to be part of. There is significant demand for skilled labour for both new roles and replacement or succession roles.

“Automation is changing the nature of work. It’s not a job killer, in fact the opposite is true: automation will create new jobs and opportunities as we head into a more digitised future and will play a big role in the skills future engineers need. The workforce needs to adapt, upskill and re-skill in response,” says industry training organisation (ITO) Competenz chief executive, Fiona Kingsford.

The mechanical engineering sector contributed $5,508m GDP in 2018, employing more than 25,000 people, an increase of 2.5% on the previous year.

Fiona says the data highlights the opportunity for mechanical engineering apprentices at a time when NZQA is assessing if some apprenticeship training should be recognised at the same level as university – ultimately shifting peoples’ perceptions of trade careers.

“NZQA is currently reviewing the Qualifications Framework which places most trade certificates at level 4, Bachelor degrees at level 7 and PhDs at level 10 and it will consider the descriptions of what is required at each of the 10 qualification levels. Once that is completed next year, Competenz and other ITOs will rewrite their qualifications, and we are highly likely to request some of them to be listed at a higher level.

“Most of our level 4 trade certificates should really be at level 6 or higher of the Qualifications Framework. We cover sectors from mechanical engineering to fire protection, to qualifying refrigeration engineers all of which involve significant decision-making and supervisory skills, making complex decisions that after four years of study puts them much higher than a level four on the framework."

She says apprentices come out highly qualified and competent and having their skills recognised at the same level as university means the pathways into trades from school will become more direct, like they are in other countries such as Germany and Scandinavia.

“Apprenticeships are an integral and traditional part of the career pathway and are a vital to New Zealand in a skills shortage. There is an increasing need to continuously upskill – both in response to technical changes as well as business sustainability,” adds Fiona.

Highlighting these opportunities in the mechanical engineering sector and other trade and service sectors is the 2019 ‘Got A Trade? Got it Made!’ campaign, run by Competenz this year. The campaign shows young New Zealanders and their parents, teachers and careers advisors the benefits of ‘work, learn, get paid and get qualified’ as a genuine pathway to great jobs and successful careers.

“As an ITO we develop and manage apprenticeship training for more than 20,000 learners. Our customers - the businesses who employ these learners - are committing to the future by growing their workforce’s capabilities to ensure trades training is central to our post-industrial and digital economy.”
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