Tradespeople are desperately needed in South Canterbury, and engineers are no different. Senior reporter Rachel Comer talks to people in the industry who couldn’t think of another job they’d love to have, and what’s being done in the field to address the issue.
South Canterbury’s engineering industry, like many other trades, is facing problems.
It’s no secret that skilled workers are in dire demand across many industries, as several large projects get underway after being delayed by COVID-19.
Timaru projects such as the Showgrounds Hill development, the Scott Base build, the Theater Royal project, the Aurangi Stadium, and the Agantighe Art Gallery will all require skilled tradespeople.
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This week Venture Timaru chief executive Nigel Davenport said a “here and now” solution was needed to address the staff shortage across Timaru.
But even in Timaru, there are not enough skilled people, an aging workforce, and those skilled enough to go overseas, particularly to Australia, meaning more apprentices are needed to pump new blood into the engineering industry , says Te Pukenga Ara Institute of Canterbury Timaru Campus Academic Staff Member Engineering John Edwards.
“The Covid travel restrictions have provided a respite for us. However, I have now noticed that Australian companies are advertising our skills,” Edwards said.
“Fly in and fly out are being offered from New Zealand. In NZ, there is a need for more apprentices who have the relevant qualities to build a career in.”
This is one industry that Edwards knows a thing or two about.
He disliked school and couldn’t wait to leave, he is now in charge of teaching freshmen in engineering.
“Engineering, woodworking, tech drawing and sports were the only things that interested me. I went to school back in the days when they still taught courses that were business specific. Now all this has changed.
Turning back to the school only for “the part I liked”, the school’s dean informed Edwards’ mother that he must drop out.
After his mother insisted he find a job, Edwards was employed as a paperhanger for three years.
“A friend while working as a spray painter informed me that the engineering firm he was working for needed a spray painter.
“I visited my friend’s engineering workshop, discussed the situation and became more interested in engineering.”
He told the foreman that he wanted a job in engineering considering the possibility of an apprenticeship.
“I told him I could get him an amazing spray painter if he agreed. A few days later he called me back and agreed. I started as a laborer and soon became an apprentice.”
He said that he is in love with engineering.
After finishing his apprenticeship, he moved on to several engineering firms, spending some time in supervisory roles, and after more than 10 years, Edwards returned for a third time to the company where he did his apprenticeship.
“I became involved in a project setting up a training facility – Industry Entry Level designed to enable youth to enter the industry.
“It was at the start of unit standards, and he became an assessor moderator and eventually worked for the engineering industry training transition.”
He then went to Australia for 10 years of teaching, returning to Ara in Timaru four and a half years ago.
Creating, fixing and building things, and the ability to travel the world with your skills were highlighted as some of the best things about the industry, according to Edwards.
And these are some of the reasons why he would encourage others to consider engineering as a career and take up apprenticeship.
“You don’t have to go to school anymore. You get paid to train,” he said.
Other bonuses included no student loans, an internationally recognized qualification, fair funding, a variety of skills and something different to do each day while you learn.
He noted that career-oriented people were practical, preferred to work with things rather than read books, were creative, perhaps disliked school, but had the potential to go to university if they chose to put in the effort. , loved machines – cars, motorbikes, trains, for whom sitting behind a desk was not attractive, was hardworking and reliable in the school environment.
Examples of projects around the district that require an engineer include construction and maintenance of fishing boats, in the dairy industry, as well as agricultural equipment, food processing plants, truck decks and trailers, jet boats, steel framed buildings. , meat works, and hydroelectric power generation.
It seems that Brooke Thomas was almost destined to become an engineer.
With an engineer for a father, the 19-year-old grew up learning a lot about the industry.
The second-year trainee at Duncan Engineering in Temuka said she went through most of her secondary school years with “engineering on my mind”.
It’s an industry she loves, she said.
“I love working with hands and being able to actually make something, not just buy it.
“There’s great satisfaction in being able to say ‘I made that’.”
During his time at the engineering firm, he built trailers, helped build farm sheds, and took on farm machinery maintenance.
He enjoyed the practical nature of the job.
And while she was the only woman employed in the workshop at her workplace, she said more people are choosing engineering as a career.
With two years left to complete his apprenticeship, Thomas “100%” encouraged anyone else interested in engineering to consider industry.
“When you learn you earn – it’s really a no brainer.
“I can no longer imagine going to uni and spending years paying off student loans.”
Upon completing his apprenticeship, Thomas is considering drafting and going out on his own.
“There are a lot of options with engineering – from practical to pricing and quoting for jobs.”
James Forrest admits that he used to talk a lot in school.
The structure of the traditional schooling system wasn’t for Forrest, so he sought something more practical, and in the late 1990s, switched to engineering.
He studied at Aura, then known as Aoraki Polytechnic, and is now the owner of Timaru Engineering Company – Bleacher & Wyeth.
Forrest said the business suited him.
“I like working with my hands,” he said.
“I’m not really open to other work. You can go anywhere in the world and never be unemployed with engineering, it’s very rewarding.”
Forrest said there is a shortage of engineers being felt across the country, and he thought it was due to a number of factors.
“The schools don’t focus on the trades, they send people to uni, but there’s a lot of industry out there.
“Encouraging people to undertake apprenticeships can also be difficult.”
He said South Canterbury’s economy is strong, but it has also made it difficult to find staff.
Six to eight employees work at a time in his company.
“The Ara scheme is great because it’s a night course, so they go there once a week and work as well.”
He said he hired interns who were willing to show up on time and had a good attitude.
Hamish cannot speak highly enough about the Clannac Apprenticeship Scheme.
Kellneck, operations manager at Timaru’s Parr & Co, an engineering company, said with a nationwide labor shortage there was a real need to get people into apprenticeships and put them to work.
The company employs six trainees and a total of 25 engineers.
It works on projects including machinery from factories and fishing boats. The company also worked on the restoration of the Loop Road Bridge and Timaru’s Royal Arcade.
“There’s a lot of diversity in the work we do here,” Klinek said.
“No two days are the same.”
Through the Ara scheme, trainees attended night classes once a week and block courses at the Timaru campus.
“They repair, maintain, build,” Edwards said.
This includes buildings, machines, truck trailers, silos and bridges, anything that is welded, fabricated, machined, bolted together, or looks like it was made to do something, he said.
The Institute’s Managed Apprenticeship Program has 65 engineering trainees and is expected to increase to 70 in 2023.
“A new engineering training facility is being constructed, and our team of teachers has increased to include a construction specialist.”
The team consisted of Wayne Anderson, Peter Britton, Ivan Ambling and Edwards.
“We are focusing on a full-fledged pre-trade course starting February 2023 with a view to convert those who complete the course into apprenticeships.
“The pre-trade curriculum is structured to provide you with the skills you need to enter the industry and transition seamlessly into our apprenticeship program.
“It consists of three days in college with two days of work experience. The work experience component is more often merged with the apprenticeship.”
Work is expected to begin in 2023 on a new $2 million engineering workshop at the Te Pukenga Sawmill Institute on the Canterbury Timaru campus.
The saw plans to build a new workspace on its southern campus of approximately 700 square meters, to be built at the corner of Theodosia (State Highway 1) and North Streets.
The new workshop will feature modern and flexible work spaces that will house specialized engineering, welding and fabrication equipment and machinery, “supporting learning that will be valuable to a variety of trade apprentices and traineeships across the sector”.
An engineering information evening will be held at the Te Pukenga Sawmill Institute on the Canterbury Timaru campus on 21 December, and is open to anyone. It will begin at 5 p.m. and will be held at STARZ Restaurant at 32 Arthur St.