High demand for trade training

New Zealand suffers from a shortage of skilled tradespeople, but a local training initiative is helping to address that shortfall, Nelson MP Nick Smith says.

Dr Smith joined Tasman Mayor Richard Kempthorne, local secondary school principals and Nelson Marlborough Institute of Technology staff at the expanded Top of the South Trades Academy powhiri yesterday.

"Nelson and New Zealand have underestimated the importance of trade skills for a generation," Dr Smith said.

"There is a shortage of skills . . . and that is compounded by the $30 billion rebuild in Christchurch."

He said he was impressed by the cooperation of local schools which had worked together to get the academy up and running. It would be beneficial for students' careers and, ultimately, the national economy.

Academy manager Shaaron Adams said enrolments had nearly doubled from last year.

"This year we've received increased ministry funding and there are now 211 students enrolled. We've also added several more courses."

The academy was set up last year as a way to offer practical learning outside the traditional classroom, and to help budding tradespeople gain skills.

Students remain enrolled at their usual secondary school but train for one day a week with tutors at NMIT towards a National Certificate in Trade, and a minimum of NCEA level 2.

The academy offers courses in such subjects as automotive engineering, hospitality, tourism, hairdressing and beauty. This year it has added aquaculture and maritime study, aviation engineering, wellbeing and health.

"It's not just for what you'd typically consider a ‘trade'," Ms Adams said. "We want to provide opportunities for students to pursue what interests them.

"It's about having a good reason to stay at school, and a greater chance of gaining a successful career they're passionate about."

Mr Kempthorne said the academy was especially valuable for people in Tasman district, where the economy relied largely on primary industries.

A high proportion of Tasman school leavers took up trades rather than academic tertiary study, he said.

Louis Picot has started his second year of a hospitality course. He said he never expected it to affect him the way it had.

"I enjoy it, and it is rewarding."

The year 13 Nayland College student originally signed up for the academy because he was "not too good at school".

"I just needed a change of scenery. I am a hands-on learning kind of guy."

He chose hospitality, hoping to learn barista skills in case he needed a part-time job. "But now I might consider it as a career option."

The NMIT-based academy is not the only trade training facility in the region, with Nelson College having built one for its own students, on campus, last year.

Acting headmaster Tim Tucker said the college's Trade Education Centre provided excellent trade-based training for students, and had the benefit of keeping them on campus so they did not miss out on other subjects.

He said the Ministry of Education refused to provide funding for the centre, which was built and maintained with a combination of private and public funds.

Dr Smith said he admired Nelson College's initiative in creating a trade education centre at the school, adding that "they got ahead of the game" in some respects.

But there was a temptation for institutions to be too parochial, he said.

"I have tried my damnedest to get Nelson College into the Top of the South Trades Academy," Dr Smith said, but to no avail. However, "the door is always open" for it to join.

Mr Tucker said he appreciated Dr Smith's efforts, but the fundamentally different systems of each centre made amalgamation an extremely difficult prospect.

"The tailor-made nature of our courses and structure are designed to best meet the needs of our students rather than being parochial," he said.

The Top of the South Trades Academy is a joint venture between Nayland College (funding co-ordinator and lead provider), Waimea College, Nelson College for Girls, Garin College, Motueka High School, Rai Valley Area School, Tapawera Area School, Golden Bay High School, Marlborough Girls' College, Marlborough Boys' College, Queen Charlotte College, the Correspondence School and NMIT.