Wellington Water plans to put 40 school leavers or young unemployed people through a Fulton Hogan training programme after exhausting all front-line water personnel from the region.
The company's latest update said the water sector was now "under considerable stress" across New Zealand.
The shortage comes as councils pump hundreds of millions of dollars into their budgets to deal with historic underinvestment in now ageing networks.
In Wellington, water infrastructure as old as 140 years is still in use, other assets are failing before their designed lifetimes, and there are more frequent outages, service disruptions, leaks, bursts, and other faults affecting people's daily lives.
Across the region councils have responded to the water pipe problem with their biggest investment to date, being $585m of capital expenditure over the next three years.
This is an overall $165m lift in investment compared to the 2018-2021 period.
Wellington Water manages water assets for the Hutt, Porirua, Upper Hutt and Wellington City councils, South Wairarapa District Council and Greater Wellington Regional Council.
It currently has 30 vacancies across its operations, which means more work has to be subcontracted out to other firms but they themselves have limited resources.
Meanwhile, the number of customer service requests has increased by 50 per cent over the past two years.
To address the situation locally, Wellington Water is planning on recruiting 40 school leavers or young unemployed people into jobs across the sector over the coming year.
They will be run through a six-week pilot programme that Fulton Hogan has developed on behalf of the sector with support from Ministry of Social Development, Civil Contractors New Zealand, and the Construction Accord.
The programme, called The Infrastructure Skills Centre, is currently underway in Christchurch.
Each intake will have 22 practical hands-on sessions, 32 theory-based class sessions and six site visits.
Fulton Hogan NZ Chief Executive Graeme Johnson said the centre aimed to give people an experience that could set them up for a lifetime career in infrastructure.
He said early feedback has been encouraging.
"It underlines the value of giving people intensive practical and theory-based exposure to the many aspects of infrastructure, and we see this as a valuable addition to an industry with major demand for skilled people."
There will be another intake in Auckland in October. The results will then be assessed and the concept refined as necessary.
The next course is planned for Wellington, which will have a focus on water infrastructure.
Taituarā, a national membership organisation for local government professionals, has estimated growth in the labour force is likely to take between five and 10 years to respond to increased demand and soak up the current shortage.
Last year, Wellington Water mooted an accelerated apprenticeship scheme for an essential Three Waters workforce to retrain 100 people.
The company unsuccessfully made the pitch to the Government as a shovel-ready Covid-19 response project.
The company's recent update said Wellington Water still wanted to undertake specialised training to get people into the industry, but has been unable to establish a training facility to date.
Some land behind the Silverstream Wastewater Storage tank has been identified as a good place for such a facility.
However, the site will remain undeveloped until Wellington Water can find money to build something there.