When Rachael Meyer's son Cameron left private schooling to become a building apprentice people were aghast.

Meyer was asked if she was disappointed to have wasted money sending him to East Auckland private school St Kentigern College, where fees start at $19,625, only to have him become a tradie.

"They weren't shy about saying it either.

"If a young man or woman can get an apprenticeship they have pretty much got themselves a scholarship.


"For four years someone is taking them on, paying for their training so they're not coming out of it with a massive student loan."

Mrs Meyer suggested some schools looked down on students who went into the trades.

"It's almost like their time doesn't count if they manage to secure this awesome opportunity of an employer taking you on to train you.

"It's not just the parents, it's the schools."

On the other side of the city Mt Albert Grammar is about to begin trialling a programme where Year 12 students can opt to spend one day a week at nearby Unitec learning a trade while still achieving NCEA level 2.

Back at school the trade skills will be backed by business, financial literacy and economic understanding courses, all included at the request of the students.

Currently limited to building and automotive trades, deputy principal Fiona Barker said it gave students a foot in the door of a vocational pathway they wouldn't usually access until they left school.

"It's not a pathway out of school because the legitimate pathway we most expect them to take is to return for Year 13 and have another opportunity to do a level 3 course with Unitec."

It's aimed at students that in the past may have become disaffected with school but have been pressured into staying on, she said.

Just 10 places are available for the trial run kicking off in three weeks, but Barker said it wouldn't surprise her if up to 50 students from a 550-strong Year 12 cohort opted to do it in future.

Barker already has a problem on her hands.

Around 20 students have put their hands up, desperate to get on the course.

Their parents have been a little harder to convince.

"The perception that we have sometimes, or that parents have, is that a trade is somehow a lesser occupation or a lesser academic path.

"In actual fact the kids are on to it because they understand that to be awesome at it you need the full package of skills.

"You can't run your own business anymore without being a full package and that is what excites these kids."

In a pre-Budget announcement the Government said it would provide $14.4 million over four years for more apprenticeship training, aimed at adding another 5500 apprentices across a range of trades by 2020.

Currently job prospects in the industry are good, with the availability of qualified builders not keeping up with the demand for new houses.

Industry training organisation the BCITO currently has about 6000 people training in carpentry, but at least 3000 more are needed to keep pace with demand.

The facts:

• Builders and carpenters earn $55,000 on average, with salaries ranging between $37,000 and $80,000 based on data for fulltime roles listed on Trade Me Jobs between July 2015 and December 2015.

•Associated careers in quantity surveying, construction and site management offer salaries up to $160,000.

• Most BCITO trade qualifications cost $2000-4000 in total.

• Four years after gaining a qualification, a graduated apprentice could be more than $100,000 better off than a university graduate.

• Demand for new houses to the end of 2017 is forecast at more than 28,000 but the current labour market is only able to support the building of 15,000 per year.