Whanganui tradies are calling out for help as the demand for their services continues to soar.
Since Covid-19 arrived in early 2020, trades across the board have been swamped by the workload, with some even passing work on to other outfits as they don't have the staff or resources to fulfill their customers' requirements.
Owner of Mo's Home Improvement, Mo Khan, has seen near-unprecedented growth of his business over the last 16 months, employing an additional 17 staff over that period.
"We only had three guys plus myself before lockdown. After that, business just went crazy."
Khan said kitchens, bathrooms and decks have been popular options for locals doing renovations.
Things don't look like they're easing off for Khan, who is slowly working on an expanded site on Glasgow St to cope with the demand.
"I don't see how it slows down. We are fully booked until November. It is just crazy."
Admin/manager at Plumber Dan's, Wendy Goldsworthy, said there was a massive shortage of skilled workers, and they had been so busy over the last few months they had been referring jobs to other local plumbing outfits as they couldn't cope with the demand.
"You can't have someone with an overflowing toilet waiting for days. Those emergency jobs need to be done as soon as possible."
Goldsworthy said since Covid-19 hit, demand for their services had soared.
She thinks because people can't travel overseas they have a bit more desire to do those renovations around their homes.
"It doesn't look like it is going to slow down."
Khan said a new law that took effect on July 1 forcing landlords to meet the healthy homes standards within 90 days of a new tenancy had only increased the demand for his services.
"We are getting a lot of queries about insulation work to meet these new standards."
He was still looking to hire additional staff, including painters, electricians and builders, but said there was a massive shortage in qualified workers.
That combined with the tough restrictions overseas workers face to get into New Zealand had left a small pool of available tradies, Khan said.
"It takes years to train people. Now is not the time to be training people. With the amount of work we have, we need skilled workers immediately. We are willing to pay extra to people who can get the job done."
Whanganui District Council regulatory and planning group manager Hamish Lampp this week told the property and community services committee three new staff had been recruited in the building control area due to the high level of activity.
Data from the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment show 175 residential consents were issued in Whanganui for 2020, a 30.6 per cent increase from 2019.
Two external building contractors, ComplyNZ and National Processing Limited, are currently assisting with the processing of building consent applications.
The council's building control manager, Greg Hoobin, said attracting qualified and competent officers was very difficult at the moment so the engagement of two cadet building control officers will enable them to react to any further sector fluctuations of activity and ensure technical succession.
He said the demand was predominantly within the residential sector.
"We have been extremely fortunate to have been able to attract a high calibre of people with extensive industry experience in our recruitment. We were also very pleased to have been able to recruit a fully qualified Building Control Officer who can essentially hit the ground running when he joins the team."
Whanganui and Partners chief executive Hannah Middleton said population growth had seen more skilled workers join the Whanganui labour market and had expanded local capability.
"However, as businesses continue to experience growth and a period of unprecedented construction goes ahead, there is more competition to secure staff and some difficulty is to be expected."
According to Infometrics, net migration accounted for 91 per cent of Whanganui's population growth in 2020, with 728 new residents moving to Whanganui from out of town. The remaining 9 per cent of growth is due to natural increase (the ratio of births to deaths in the district).
Middleton said Whanganui & Partners encouraged industry and institutions to define clear career pathways for young people entering the labour market, and they aim to support capability by retaining workers and attracting skilled labour providers to Whanganui.
Danny Reilly, executive dean of engineering & applied technologies at UCOL, said there had always been strong trade opportunities in the region and they were continuing to offer programmes in the right locations.
"Many of our courses are covered until the free Targeted Training and Apprenticeship Fund, where the Government completely covers your course fees and that's just a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. The fund is only open until the end of 2022, so for anyone who's wondered about a career in trades, I'd tell them to get in right now – there's never going to be a better chance than this one."
He said more than ever, they were offering training opportunities in construction-related areas including plumbing, infrastructure works and automotive-related trades.
"This year we launched our Certificate in Construction Trade Skills (Carpentry) Level 3 in Whanganui and it filled up with a full cohort."
Reilly said they were expanding their impact across the region by running programmes with iwi in Marton and Taumarunui.
"We've recently begun training 26 young people in construction in Turangi, in another partnership we have with Ngati Tūrangitukua."