Tradies, plumbers in short supply as skills shortage deepens
Are you having trouble finding a contractor or plumber? You are not alone.
New data suggests some parts of the country are facing acute shortages of certain traders, with Wellington topping the list.
There is such a demand for handymen and plumbers in the capital that Builderscrack.co.nz, a website that matches job openings with craftsmen who register on the site, says it’s “almost impossible to find a plumber in Wellington in a short amount of time.” to find”.
Some customers had to wait months instead of days for a plumber, said Builderscrack spokesman Jeremy Gray.
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“And for some reason, and I don’t know why, people have been going crazy over bathroom renovations in the past few months.”
Wellington trader Sandy Aitchison agreed, saying demand had “runaway” since Covid.
“It’s hard to find one at short notice now. Sometimes you can wait a few weeks to months.”
Wellington plumber Craig Louisson, said he had been in business for 15 years and had always been busy.
“I get calls from clients and they say I’m the third or fourth plumber they’ve called, so I think that suggests the previous four said no.”
Waikato carpenters were also in high demand. Abe Pouwels, a Waikato builder who joined the business six months ago, said he was looking for a new worker and the pool of applicants was very limited.
Business was brisk. “The demand for work to be finished is there, but we all struggle with the lack of it [building] materials.”
Traditions in Auckland and Christchurch seemed to get easier.
Christchurch plumber Martin De Gouw agreed that it was easier to get a plumber in his city than in other centers.
He attributed it to many merchants who remained in Christchurch after the city’s reconstruction and lower housing costs.
“We get quite a few traditions from Auckland to look for work.”
Builderscrack — which focuses on the renovation and repair market — said electricians weren’t in as high a demand as other professions.
However, Bernie McLaughlin, CEO of Master Electricians, said this was not a sign that electricians in general were plentiful. In fact, the industry was short of 10,000 electricians.
A wave of new apprentices, with upturns among women and Māori or Pacific interns, has been encouraging, he said.
“Because there are just no skilled workers, there is also quite a bit of poaching happening. Traders go to companies for an extra $3-$5 per hour and of course the overheads go up and so the costs go up.
“So it’s actually quite inflationary. It has a much broader effect on NZ Inc than just a slow building process.”
The demand for skilled workers is largely attributed to the pandemic factor.
An inability to travel has diverted many people’s energy into their homes, and rising house prices have given them the confidence to take up jobs they may not have prioritized before.
Large numbers of expatriate Kiwis and a housing shortage are also contributing to increasing the level of new housing construction that has been unprecedented since the 1970s.
But the closed borders have also exacerbated existing skills shortages in New Zealand.
David Kelly, CEO of Master Builders, said a recent poll of members found that construction companies see finding workers as one of their biggest problems.
Nearly 70 percent said it was more difficult than it was 12 months ago and more than a third said it was “significantly more difficult.”
“The sector is crying out for experienced people in all kinds of fields. Uncertainty about immigration situations only exacerbates this situation,” Kelly said.
Training was an important piece of the puzzle, but it wouldn’t solve the current problems, he said.
“We need experienced professionals who compete with other countries and sectors for those people.”
At the end of June, there were 80,000 vacancies on Trade Me, with crafts and services the fifth most advertised job category, after hospitality, manufacturing, construction and transport.
An NZIER quarterly survey said the difficulty of finding skilled labor was the highest since the mid-1970s, with Covid-related supply chain disruptions exacerbating the sector’s problems.
On the positive side, some 100,000 people have received free vocational training and apprenticeships under the Targeted Training and Apprenticeships Fund (TTAF) since July last year.
About a third of these are in the construction sector.
In addition to existing free apprenticeship schemes announced last year, the government also recently announced that it will fund more than 500 Māori job seekers for work and training opportunities.
Funding will go to local groups in Auckland, Northland and the Bay of Plenty, where there are severe labor shortages and existing jobs due to major infrastructure projects.
“We know these kinds of initiatives bring benefits, especially when they are highly targeted, such as this funding through the Māori Trades and Training Fund (MTTF) and He Poutama Rangatahi projects,” said Brett O’Riley, CEO of the Employer and Manufacturers association.