In close collaboration with UCOL, Ashhurst Engineering and Construction (AEC) is doing its part to address the shortage of qualified tradespeople in their industry.
The Manawatū-based company has shown its commitment by supporting five of its 19 trade staff through an apprenticeship scheme managed by UCOL.
AEC owners Gill and Dave Hoskin say the partnership with UCOL means they are relieved of the management of the programme.
"We don't have to 'wield the big stick', collate results, teach in the classroom or do the related paperwork; a totally independent party does that for us," says Gill.
UCOL trade lecturers Stu Coxon and Ray Banks liaise with AEC and meet regularly with the Hoskins to give them the students' results, keep them up to date and plan ahead.
Coxon says from a trainer's point of view, working alongside Gill and Dave is a pleasure.
"Their commitment to the training of engineering apprentices and the support they give them is brilliant.
"They see the need for skilled workers within the engineering industry and are actively making a huge contribution in addressing this issue."
Most of AEC's prospective apprentices start as labourers. "And if the fit is right, they are offered apprenticeship opportunities," says Gill.
An apprenticeship takes four years or a minimum of 8000 hours to complete.
The trainees undertake specific skills at work, as part of the evidence-based practical component of their programme. AEC's senior staff sign off on the completion of the task.
Lachlan Harrigan and Reagan Shaw are both in their third year of their AEC apprenticeships and say the connection with UCOL is very positive.
Harrigan, who is working in heavy fabrication towards a NZ Certificate in Engineering Fabrication (Trade) Level 4, says he enjoys the UCOL night classes as they are motivating and give rise to some healthy competition.
"You don't want to get behind in your course work," he says.
Shaw, who is a machinist, agrees, adding that he likes the social and group dynamic, especially in block courses where you are working independently, but for the same outcome.
He is studying towards a NZ Certificate in Mechanical Engineering Level 4.
Both men say they love the variety that comes with their jobs at AEC.
They get out on work sites and are involved in both big and small projects, while obtaining a qualification at the same time.
AEC's association with UCOL began four years ago and the Hoskins say they are very satisfied with its outcomes – it's providing learning support in an industry "crying out" for well-trained tradespeople.
They are one of 21 businesses spanning from Whanganui to Horowhenua who train, in total, 44 apprentices in UCOL managed trade apprenticeships.
Government support of apprenticeships is at a high – businesses can currently apply for a Government-funded Apprenticeship Boost Scheme, and many are training multiple apprentices in different years of their trade.
It's also great for learners, with these trade certificate programmes included in fees-free study, under Targeted Training and Apprenticeships Fund.
This free funding is only available until the end of 2022, so UCOL is encouraging interested learners to join next year's February intake.