Last week I attended the two day NZ Local Government zone meeting for the lower North Island councils.
It was an opportunity for professional development and a six monthly update on what is happening at national level and across the zone. Each mayor gave a short speech about the happenings in their area and collectively it was staggering the amount of activity occurring.
There were many common issues and I take some comfort from the fact that we are not alone, as we look ahead to the major challenges like the three waters reforms, the effects of logging, earthquake prone buildings and changing land use trends.
One subject that was on everyone's mind was the housing and rental shortages. The lack of housing is a well documented national problem, and most people acknowledge there are no quick fixes available.
The problems are likely to be ongoing for several years to come. In the long term building more houses is the obvious solution but I have to say, it should never have come to this.
After years of rampant immigration, with numbers of people in the vicinity of 65,000 net gain per year, coupled with not building sufficient houses to accommodate these additional people, means it is really hurting now. The housing shortfalls are made worse by the ever increasing and inhibitive planning rules and regulations, along with compliance complexities.
Right now New Zealand is undergoing a house building boom like no other, but still we have shortages. We are reaching our capacity to build any quicker, made worse by the shortage of trained and skilled tradesman throughout the sector.
What an expensive and short-sighted mistake it was some decades back when the traditional apprentice training schemes were largely abolished and the trades became unfashionable. Now we need and want these trained people, but we simply don't have enough Kiwis to call on.
Instead we have relied upon skilled immigrants, whose numbers ironically now partly contribute to the housing problem they are supposedly here to resolve. It is really irksome to know that so many New Zealanders are out there looking for work, but have not had the opportunities or skills training or background needed to take up the construction related job opportunities available now. We need to plan better in the future.
This week the Stratford council hosts its annual trade graduation ceremony and we will acknowledge people who have completed their trade training.
I think it is important to do so, as they are often forgotten or taken for granted when compared to those who have chosen a more academic career path. Right now across the country and more than ever before, we desperately need the skills they offer.
Tradespeople are always in demand and the skills they learn are often transferable to other roles later in their career paths. So we should without hesitation encourage our young people into trade training.
To maximise these opportunities we also need the Government to invest in these young people and their employers. Training is expensive and employers need a supportive central government when it comes to sharing this cost. After all, the whole community benefits from having a trained and skilled workforce.
A message to the year group of students preparing to leave school this year and enter the big wide world, I suggest you should take more than a passing glance at trade training, it could well be your pathway to success.