Last year the Government announced its apprenticeship scheme with much fanfare.
The welcomed injection of cash followed Covid and a skilled-labour shortage that was continuing to bite.
The trades were under stress as they struggled to keep up with the increasing demand for apprentices across the trades.
Building, construction, plumbers and electricians were feeling the pinch while some employers were reluctant to take on any newbies due to the cost.
Tradies I have spoken to said it was a real gamble and costly because you couldn't expect an apprentice to start paying their way for at least a couple of years.
Then there were the countless number of hours spent training them in the hope they would stay once they had qualified.
The Apprenticeship Boost incentives were designed to shake that up by offering companies $1000 a month for a first-year apprentice for 20 months and $500 a month for second-year apprentices.
The Targeted Training and Apprenticeship Fund was also introduced to cover the cost of fees from now to December 31, 2022 for all apprentices.20-02-2021 12:00:00
These sweeteners were snapped up by those in the sector who wanted to help boost apprenticeship numbers.
Everyone agreed the move was a step in the right direction and would help hold off a potential employment crisis.
It sounded good. But then the cracks appeared.
Master Builders Association Tauranga president Todd Grey said he hoped employers weren't hiring apprentices to get cheap labour and the grants.
Those concerns were echoed by Master Plumbers and Master Electricians NZ who hoped trainees were doing it for the right reasons and it wasn't a bums on seat approach.
They also hoped the funds could be directed at the trades facing serious labour shortages, not cake bakers.
For example, at the end of last year there were only eight apprentices training as plumbers in the Bay of Plenty - far less than the forecasted need.
Since the Apprenticeship Boost was launched in August, 16,475 employees had their apprenticeship status verified and about $54 million had been paid to employers.
Statistics revealed 1205 of those apprentices were based in the Bay of Plenty.
Meanwhile, the Ministry of Education said employers receiving funding had to sign a declaration detailing their legal obligations to pay their apprentices at least minimum wage.
Ministry of Education's group manager of tertiary education Katrina Sutich said the Apprenticeship Boost was designed to support employers to retain first and second-year apprentices and to encourage them to take on new apprentices.
The tradies have a point. There should be some standards apprentices need to reach before their employers are doled out their cash.
At the moment, the money is paid in advance.
There should be a push to attract enthusiastic and eager career seekers into the trades which need it the most - and the Government should be playing a lead role in that.
Throwing money at a problem doesn't always fix it.