I was listening to talkback radio this morning and the usual menu of 'misinformed/righteous/certain of fact,' type callers, along with the host, were talking about how employers can't get skilled workers/tradesmen to build the houses NZ desperately needs. With the upcoming election about to be decided with this issue very much to the fore, let's look at the claim that there are simply not enough of the above 'people' to deliver on the 'promises' of those who are about to put themselves forward. Most political parties are 'staging' their ideas to resolve the housing problem.
There are those who would like to open the floodgates to immigration, bringing in so-called 'skilled practitioners of the desired trades. Whether they can deliver on this, is a moot point. Bringing in the tradespeople (and their families) may just add to the problem, some say.
Sure---bring some in, if they can be found. NZ is not the only country seeking skilled workers. But how about looking back to the 'resources,' the untrained resources that exist in NZ?
I can hear the replies to my suggestion. They will range from the usual 'the kids of today don't want to work, they lack the skills and attitudes and we can't afford to put the time into training them.'
What happened to the good old training young (and older) apprentices, where the young people went along and did block courses, then learned on the job? The employer (often just one builder and a few staff) put the time in and 'nurtured' the young person. Sure the trainee often left a few years later and the cycle continued. The employer saw it as a 'responsibility to invest in the future of the industry.'What has changed? Is it only about money now?
One of the callers, this morning expressed dissatisfaction with some of his competitors, in that whilst he was 'prepared to put the time into bringing on new blood,' his competitors were 'simply ignoring their responsibility and sponging on people like him, by not taking part in an industry-wide responsibility, to look to the future needs.' He is correct in his response.
I come from a sector of the economy whereby those wishing to get into that field (Counselling) go and do their training, get experience by working alongside other professionals, under supervision and gain the necessary skills, both theoretical and practical. If we did not work in this manner, how would young people (and once again, not so young) ever gain entry into this important field?
We need the same attitude in the building and other industries. If we are not prepared to 'invest' in the future by taking part in the nurturing of young people, then there is always going to be a shortage of skilled workers.
I do not believe that young people are 'ill-prepared' for this challenge. I do not take the anecdotal 'evidence' as expressed by some frustrated employers, in the form of stories about how some young people have not risen to the expectations, as the norm. That scenario has always existed and 'bad experiences tend to colour the views of someone on the 'wrong end of the ledger!'
Let's look to the huge resource that our young and others, already living in NZ represent, as the main impetus to filling the gaps, both now and in the future. I am NOT saying, that we should not top that up, using immigration, but I AM saying, let's get some balance into the equation.