A brand-new half-million-dollar electrical training facility has opened in Tauranga as demand for skilled tradespeople grows.
The Electrical Training Company's (Etco) "state-of-the-art" facility has been built in Tauranga's fast-growing Tauriko Business Estate.
Etco chief executive Jeremy Sole said trade demand had seen the company outgrow its Rotorua and Hamilton facilities and the need to expand into Tauranga.
"It seems every time we opened a new facility we would outgrow it within a year," he said.
"It's a brand-spanking-new building. It's a sophisticated training centre, state of the art, and dedicated to electrical training."
Sole said Etco will share the new facility with Master Electricians, and signed the lease in November.
"It's been a long time coming ... there is big demand in Tauranga."
The total project would have cost about "half a million dollars", he said.
It was also good to have a facility built in the city's growing Tauriko Business Estate.
"There is so much growth there and so much going on. We are excited for Tauranga spending this money and making this commitment.
"We were gobsmacked when we saw the development happening out there. It's an exciting area."
Sole said Etco typically trained 45-48 per cent of the total number of apprentices in New Zealand.
"That's now gone up to 60 per cent," he said. "That growth is happening all around the country.
"We typically employ about 95 per cent of the school leavers coming into electrical apprentices in New Zealand."
In the Bay of Plenty, Etco employed about 49 apprentices, and Sole said the number of apprentices needed partly depended on work that was happening in the regions.
"We've probably got about 20-30 waiting in the wings.
"We've got quite a big waiting list."
First-year Etco apprentice Peter Ostick used to travel the world running outdoor boot camps - but then the Covid-19 lockdown happened. Now, he is retraining as an electrician.
The 30-year-old studied a Bachelor of Outdoor Education at university, but the job became unstable after the lockdown, which meant he had to change careers.
Coming from a "tradie family", Ostick said he had helped an electrician friend after lockdown restrictions eased and signed up for an apprenticeship with Etco in August last year.
"I thought I would give it a go."
He landed an apprenticeship at Electrical Works in Tauranga and has enjoyed every minute.
"It's a pretty awesome workplace," he said. "It's not easy to change careers when you're in your 30s. But they have been really supportive.
"The electrical trade is an awesome, hands-on trade. There's always a problem to solve as well as good mahi ... it's pretty busy and there's always something to be done."
Ostick said he enjoyed the satisfaction of getting something to work properly.
"Seeing a motor run, for example, or when something breaks down and we get it going again."
He has started his first class in the new Tauranga facility and says the new workshop on site is beneficial for his learning.
"I like that we can learn while we work. It [the new facility] really solidifies that learning for us and transfers what we have learned in the classroom.
"Having that one night dedicated to be in the classroom also helps people who aren't classroom-based learners."
Fourth-year Etco apprentice Ethan Bowater, who also worked with Electrical Works, said they had been "flat tack" since the Covid-19 lockdown.
"We're constantly busy."
Bowater, 28, worked with industrial automation and control systems.
"I have done the domestic stuff before, but I find this side a lot more interesting."
He said the new Tauranga facility was a "pretty solid upgrade" from Rotorua's facility, where he and fellow apprentices were travelling to do block courses.
Bowater said he left school to study engineering, but did not enjoy learning in a classroom.
"It drove me nuts sitting in a classroom, I like being more hands on."
"I moved around doing a few different jobs before finding what I wanted to do."