More students looking to apprenticeships as placements increase

Jose Armstrong, Sean Phillips and Jenna Pillette are in their element in the Rimu Electrical workshop where they are ...

Jose Armstrong, Sean Phillips and Jenna Pillette are in their element in the Rimu Electrical workshop where they are completing their apprenticeships.

It took 16 years for Jose Armstrong to realise his dream and land an electrical apprenticeship.

The 39-year-old moved to New Zealand from Peru in search of a better job in 2001 and for the last three years has been working as an apprentice at Rimu Electrical in New Plymouth.

"It's hard enough if English is your first language," he said.

"But my English is quite fresh, I sound like I jumped out of the boat last night."

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Earlier this month, the Government announced there were 43,000 apprentices nationwide in 2016, up from 42,055 in 2015.

Despite the language barrier, Armstrong said he was enjoying working and learning at Rimu alongside Sean Phillips, 26, who started his apprenticeship a year and a half ago, and Jenna Pillette​, 36, who started in October last year.

Pillette and Phillips both studied together at the Western Institute of Technology in Taranaki (Witt) while Armstrong began his studies through ETCO before starting at Rimu.

Their apprenticeships involved a lot of hands-on work which had to be documented and sent back to The Skills Organisation, which ran the apprenticeships, Phillips said.

"You go out with the qualified guys and they show you the ropes while you do the hard work," he laughed.

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"Getting into ceilings and under floors, they send you up the ladder," Pillette added.

While Phillips and Pillette found an apprenticeship placement fairly easily, Armstrong said it had been quite difficult for him

"I've been trying to get one for 16 years but nobody would give me work because I am too old," he said.

The other two agreed and said most of the other students in their classes had been much younger than them.

"They want them straight out of school," Pillette said.

Learning on the job was a great way to get qualified, Phillips said.

"It's the best way to do it," he said.

Industry Training Federation chief executive Josh Williams said the rise of apprenticeships was fantastic.

"The proportion of apprentices in the workforce is the same as the mid-80s, which many consider the heyday," he said.

Associate Tertiary Education, Skills and Employment Minister Louise Upston said the government was aiming for 50,000 apprentices by 2020.

"Trade apprenticeships are not just an alternative career choice for young people, they are critical for our economic growth," she said.

 - Stuff

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