Bay of Plenty Plumbing and Gas marketing manager and owner Sarah Jamieson says she is constantly on the lookout for qualified plumbers and gasfitters.

"For the past couple of years, we've always had a job ad running," she says. "It's been a struggle. I just don't think there's many qualified people out there."

Jamieson blames an ageing workforce but also believes young people are not being encouraged to look at the trades as a viable career option.

"Schools [say] if you don't go to university you're not going to be successful, rather than 'go out and get an apprenticeship and earn while you're training and come out without a student loan'."


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As well as earning at least the minimum wage while training, a qualified plumber can earn about $40 an hour in a job that offers different challenges and a variety of work every day.

Jamieson's firm covers much of the Bay of Plenty, working on new-builds, doing maintenance work and commercial work.

It employs five qualified tradespeople but Jamieson says she could always do with two or three more. To help solve their own staff shortages they have taken on four apprentices - probably one more than they need.

"But that's the only way to get staff at the moment, to train them up from the bottom."

Although government training agencies are running a week-long push to encourage young people to join trades, Jamieson points out apprentices are a big cost for small firms.

"It's hard on business taking on apprentices. They cost you a lot of money. You can't charge them out for a long period of time - they're basically riding along, learning, and
you have to pay them.

"So it's an investment. They could decide after they finish that they want to go and there goes your investment."