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Nats’ failure to train young people contributes to housing stall

Budget documents forecast that housing construction will stall in the coming year, despite the massive housing shortage, and National’s failure to train young people in building trades is partly to blame, says Leader of the Opposition Andrew Little.

The Budget forecasts growth in the residential construction sector to slow from nearly seven per cent to just 0.3 per cent in 2017/18. Treasury attributes this, in part, to ‘capacity constraints in the construction sector (particularly for skilled labour)’. Government data shows a significant reduction in the number of carpentry and plumbing apprentices under National, despite the Christchurch rebuild and national housing shortage.

“After nine years, National has managed to stall housing construction in the middle of the largest housing shortage we’ve ever seen. We needed to be training more young people in building skills; National trained fewer. Labour’s fresh approach will incentivise builders to take on more apprentices so we can grow the building workforce.

“Already, the problems can be seen. Building consents are static. The residential construction sector shrunk 1.6 per cent in the latest GDP statistics. With record population growth and housing already in short supply, a stall in housing construction is the last thing this country needs.

“National allowed the number of building apprentices to fall following the Canterbury earthquakes, despite the growing need for skilled builders. The number of carpenter apprentices qualifying was down 30 per cent in 2016 compared to 2011.

“The number of apprentices in training is now increasing, but many more are needed and years of too few apprentices being trained have led to the shortage of experienced workers now.

“Now, we’re seeing the results of National’s failure to invest in training: a building sector that is hitting its limits when we still need many more houses.

“Labour is committed to expanding the building workforce and training more young people as part of our comprehensive housing plan. Labour will help firms with the cost of employing an apprentice through our Dole for Apprenticeships scheme and apprentices will have access to our fees free tertiary policy. KiwiBuild contractors will be required to train apprentices as part of their participation in the programme. The KiwiBuild Visa will allow builders to bring in a skilled worker as long as they also train a local apprentice,” says Andrew Little.