Apprentices take on rebuild roles

WELCOME: Gough Group's Adam Lyon talks to new recruits Thomas Smith, left, and Campbell Scott.
WELCOME: Gough Group's Adam Lyon talks to new recruits Thomas Smith, left, and Campbell Scott.

Apprentices are taking on a larger role in the Christchurch rebuild through the building trades and through individual companies, such as the Gough Group.

One of the largest employers nationally of heavy automotive apprentices, the Gough Group began 2013 with a two-week induction of 15 new apprentices.

Some will end up helping the rebuild through servicing work on heavy automotive machinery.

There are moves politically and in the education sector to add strength to the role of apprentices in the rebuild.

Last month, Prime Minister John Key announced moves to kickstart the sluggish economy and help the Christchurch recovery with a $12 million boost in apprenticeship training.

The plan includes up to $2000 for each apprentice to cover trainees' tools and course costs.

The first 10,000 new apprentices enrolled after April 1 get $1000 towards costs, or $2000 if they are in priority construction trades.

Christchurch Polytechnic Institute of Technology (CPIT) hosts many apprentices from around Canterbury, including engineering apprentices from the Gough Group. CPIT's Trades Innovation Institute head of department Karen Te Puke said 550 to 600 apprentices were expected to attend off-job training courses at the polytech this year.

Many of those did two-week block courses in fields such as painting and decorating, with about 150 apprentices due to train in that sector, and carpentry.

Other trades apprenticeship fields included electrical, engineering, plumbing, furniture making/ joinery and automotive.

The total number was up from about 400 in 2012. That figure had doubled from 2011, helped by the earthquake rebuild, Te Puke said.

The institute has been working in partnership with industry training organisations and the Stronger Christchurch Infrastructure Rebuild Team to help meet the needs of the property and infrastructure rebuilds in Christchurch.

Fulltime courses in subjects such as carpentry, that often ran over two years, had been split down into shorter consecutive block courses of 12 weeks.

"Instead of holding on to those students for the whole year, the students can finish that 12-week module, get out into the industry.

"They're more going out like labourers on to the worksite but they know the safety regulations, they know how to load a trailer."

The Gough Group, which has had the New Zealand dealership for the yellow-liveried Caterpillar since 1932, last month had 15 apprentices on an induction course in Christchurch. The apprentices would then complete a four-year apprenticeship in New Zealand branches. The 2013 intake - engineering apprentices and heavy-diesel apprentices - would be working for the next 12 months with Gough Engineering, Gough Cat and Gough Material Handling divisions around the country, said Adam Lyon, manager of the Gough Institute of Training, which has about 65 apprentices on its books.

The group has more than 50 outlets throughout Australia and New Zealand, and annual revenues of more than $400 million.

Lyon did his own apprenticeship with the Gough Group in 1998, then travelling overseas to work with Caterpillar dealerships in Australia and the United Kingdom before returning to Gough.

Gough Group chief executive Karl Smith said the company was committed to recruiting and training young people at the time the rebuild was providing work.

The group's heavy-diesel mechanics were servicing vehicles involved both in the demolition and construction projects, with others involved in highway truck servicing.

"We've been servicing a lot of Cat and non-Cat gear; that's been great for us."

Caterpillar engines were used in many trucks, including the International truck brand, part of Navistar International.

The Press