Some apprentices are waiting up to nine months to do crucial modules at polytechnics which could push back the dates they qualify, says the Master Plumbers Association.
The delays have been blamed on a lack of qualified tutors particularly in plumbing, and forethought by the Government following its massive funding boost last year and campaign to attract more Kiwis into the trades.
But Education Minister Chris Hipkins said he had not heard of any broad concerns from the training sector about significant staff shortages.
He understands the Tertiary Education Commission has been working with some providers and industries on how to increase the level of some off-site training as the demand has significantly increased.
"From time to time, experienced tutors can be in high demand. This is not unexpected given the record levels of new apprentices.
"In any industry, there can be temporary issues with getting qualified staff - that's one of the reasons we introduced Targeted Training and Apprenticeship Fund, because we saw the need for more tradespeople."
In 2020 the Government announced a $380.6 million initiative that included subsidies of about $18,000 to employers and scrapped apprenticeship fees which were due to run out in 2022.
Hipkins said employers' support was envisaged to be a short-term response to the impacts of Covid-19. It was recently extended and now ends in August 2022.
"Any decision to extend this support further would need to be considered as part of a future Budget process."
Master Plumbers, Gasfitters and Drainlayers NZ chief executive Greg Wallace said apprentice numbers had grown by 25 per cent but their off-job training in polytechnics was taking months.
"No one allowed for that growth and that basically means there is a massive backlog, sometimes up to nine months, to get into a block course. And the sad story is it's probably going to get worse before it gets better.
"Apprentices can't progress through their apprenticeships and get the apprenticeship training which is required in a timely manner."
But he supported the extra funding employers had received and hoped it could be extended.
Wallace said there was a massive shortage of plumbing tutors across the country. He also believed the approved plumbing courses which were for those who did not have an apprenticeship should be stopped "and they should be prioritising actual apprentices".
Andrew McCarthy, from Tauranga Hardware and Plumbing, said the company had eight apprentices and he had noticed delays in getting them on to block courses at polytech.
"It's nothing too significant at this stage. When you have such a drive for new apprentices it's going to put pressure on the training organisations and something they should have considered when making these decisions."
Competenz chief executive Fiona Kingsford said its engineering apprentices had block courses delivered at polytechs but there was job and online learning to complete before apprentices attended their first course. So there was no waitlist.
She said the Government funding had helped create greater exposure and lifted the profile of a wider variety of trades and opportunities available for learners beyond the traditional building/electrical trades.
Competenz is a multi-sector industry training organisation and its industries include engineering, manufacturing, forestry, food and beverage, printing, transport and textiles.
"We help Kiwi industry grow skills, careers and businesses. Owned by our industries, we are responsible for setting the standards for qualifications in 37 sectors while we support learners, employers, and industry to achieve their goals. We're proud to support more than 20,000 learners and 3500 businesses nationwide."
Electrical Training Company (Etco) has expanded its Rotorua branch to open a brand new $500,000 electrical training facility in Tauranga's Tauriko Business Estate.
Etco chief executive Jeremy Sole said electricians training with Etco did not have to complete polytech training.
"We deliberately built the training centre larger than what we need so there are no delays," he said.
"Ninety per cent of our apprentices will finish and go directly into employment."
Master Electricians chief executive Bernie McLaughlin said he was aware of the constraints plumbing apprentices were facing but its apprentices used Etco.
Etco was established about 30 years ago and had incredibly good foresight, he said.
Data shows from July 2020 to April 2021 there were 1912 new electrical apprenticeship enrolments. Participation rates for women in trades had increased by 4 per cent, Māori by 3 per cent and Pacific by 1 per cent since 2019.
McLauglin said the employer incentives were long overdue and it was lobbying for them to be extended.
The Skills Organisation senior communications adviser Suzanne De Spong said it had 11,098 apprentices in New Zealand including 674 in the Bay of Plenty to the end of June. These numbers had jumped from 8312 and 489 respectively in one year.
Trades it covered were electrical, plumbing, gasfitting, drainlaying, scaffolding, roofing, cranes, rigging, industrial rope access, elevated work platforms and health & safety.
BCITO chief executive Toby Beaglehole said the Government's Apprenticeship Boost employer support scheme helped to generate the largest growth in our history.
"In response, we are now facing new challenges related to increasing our capacity. Our field teams are handling unprecedented numbers of applications and apprentices to meet demand, as we strive to maintain our service levels."
Some of its trades' qualifications required attendance at a short block course once a year with polytechnics and some Private Training Establishments.
"We have seen no significant increase in waitlists and apprentices are scheduled to attend as they progress through their programme and are ready for each course."
Wintec director of communications Erin Andersen said it did not have apprentices but it provided some modules for Skills Org trainees including plumbers.
"We deliver about 90 block courses a year and each block course has about 12 to 16 people in them. We can't answer the wait time as we don't manage the trainees we just received names and numbers coming into each block course."
But space, staffing and equipment could be a restraint at times, she said.
Toi Ohomai Primary Industries Trades and Infrastructure faculty dean Brian Dillon said it had about 600 students enrolled in various apprenticeship models covering electrical, engineering, automotive, carpentry, road transport and forestry.
Courses were completed in a timely manner and students work with their employer to negotiate their attendance.
"We have no issues with staffing, and where necessary, have taken on extra staff to accommodate for demand."
What is the Reform of Vocational Education (Rove)?
• Rove is creating a strong, unified, sustainable vocational education system that is fit for the future of work and delivers the skills that learners, employers and communities need to thrive.
• It put learners at the centre, ensuring they receive more support while they are training, and that their training is directly relevant to work.
• One of the key ways this will happen is the six new industry-led and governed Workforce Development Councils which will provide the industry with greater leadership.
- Source Education Minister