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Budget fails to fill plumbing pipeline

Master Plumbers is disappointed the Government’s budget has failed to acknowledge the contribution employers who take on apprentices make.

Master Plumbers commitment to apprentices is through their Masterlink programme, a mentoring apprenticeship scheme that places apprentices into ‘host’ plumbing firms. The scheme has apprentices looking for work, but not enough employers willing to take them on.

“We are pleased the Government is committed to providing incentives to get more people into apprenticeships in critical shortage areas. But it also needs to ensure it has employers who are willing to give them a job,” says Master Plumbers CEO Greg Wallace. “Employers put their time, energy and own money into training apprentices, and we had hoped the budget would provide them with an extra incentive to invest in the future workforce.”

New Zealand needs an additional 50,000 to 60,000 tradespeople over the next five years and is suffering from a major shortage of skilled plumbers, especially in Auckland, Queenstown, Bay of Plenty and the Waikato.

“New Zealand needs more plumbers to meet demand, and we need more employers willing to invest in training them. Less than 20% of the plumbing industry currently takes them on,” says Greg Wallace.

He says many Master Plumber members are already stretched just trying to meet the day to day demands of their businesses. “Every week we receive calls from frustrated consumers who can't find a plumber, with some people saying they’ve been told they'll have to wait two months. Some of our members are telling us they can't take on any new clients.”

Master Plumbers is currently trying to get plumbers on the immigration shortlist for Auckland where the plumbing workforce needs to grow by nearly 40% by 2021to keep up with demand.

“With such capacity restraints it's hard to imagine how KiwiBuild promises can be fulfilled, and plumbers' rates are likely to go up, which is not good for New Zealanders” says Greg Wallace.

Living costs continue to climb, and employers who train apprentices in the plumbing industry are helping set them up for a secure financial future, without a massive student loan.

“Apprentice plumbers earn while they learn. They often start on the training minimum wage. But as they progress through their apprenticeship and gain skills their wages increase,” says Greg Wallace. “A registered plumber can expect to start out at around $55,000. Experienced, certifying plumbers are likely to earn more than $75,000, while experienced self-employed plumbers earn between $80,000 and $100,000 a year, or even more.”

ENDS

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