Ex-All Black aims to build new career
It's not hard to spot the new apprentice on the building site, he's 2.02m tall former All Black lock Chris Jack.
Jack, 34, signed up for his apprenticeship on Monday, ending his professional rugby career for a new one in construction.
When Scott Construction managing director Justin Candish got a call from Jack he thought he might be wanting him to build him a house.
However, Jack, now living in the Nelson region with his wife Kym and two children, was inquiring about becoming a builder. Mr Candish gave him a month's trial to see how he liked it, and he does.
"It's a lot like rugby, being around a good sort of people, and achieving something. I come to work each day and at the end of the day you can see what you've done," said Jack, who played 67 tests for the All Blacks.
Returning from playing for Kyunden Voltex in Fukuoka, Japan, Jack went to Christchurch, then opted for Nelson where he previously played and felt at ease. However, he found there were not a lot of jobs in the sporting area in the region and he did not have qualifications outside of sport.
He said he decided to put his professional rugby behind him and get some skills and qualifications for the rest of his life. "It was a pretty straightforward decision to go with it, and I'm enjoying it."
He hopes to complete his Building and Construction Industry Training Organisation (BCITO) apprenticeship in three years.
He is not only the only one seeing a future in the building industry. Scott Construction has seven carpentry apprentices and four concrete placing apprentices. They include two school leavers working through the NMIT apprenticeship scheme and three who have been working in other areas of the industry and want to gain BCITO qualifications
The BCITO says it has seen a 22 per cent rise in new building apprenticeships as a result of the rebounding building industry.
Nationally, there have been 1520 sign-ups in the first quarter of this year compared to 1250 in the same quarter last year, which BCITO chief executive Ruma Karaitiana put down to demand for apprentices and the success of the Government's Reboot grant initiative.
"The building and construction industry is flourishing at the moment, and there is a real need for apprentices. In some areas, demand for apprentices is outstripping supply," he said.
The BCITO has launched a recruitment campaign to get more people into the industry.
The Nelson, Marlborough and West Coast region has seen an 11 per cent increase in the first quarter of this year, with 50 signing up, up from 45 in the same quarter last year.
Scott Construction director Kevin Scott, who has 43 years' experience in the industry, said: "If we don't do anything now the industry will be in trouble."
He rates this as a positive time. The company has 19 projects on the go including Summerset retirement village in Stoke, Cawthron building in Halifax St and repairs to Saxton Stadium.
Mr Candish said the industry also needed to develop professionals. The company has two foremen completing construction management diplomas and another staff member studying quantity surveying.
He is pleased to have Jack on site. "He has a lot of practical skills and is a very grounded guy with good sense of humour. We think we should be able to save on scaffolding."
The Nelson Mail