Rebuild adds to worker shortage

ESTHER ASHBY-COVENTRY
Last updated 05:00 15/01/2013

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Tradespeople looking for work can be on the job within hours, a Timaru employment agency says.

Demand for builders, painters and labourers is at a premium as some local companies continue rebuilding Christchurch and local economic confidence grows.

Personnel Placements consultant Jackie Clark said there was a noticeable shortage of qualified tradespeople over the past six months.

"Clients who have relocated can work within hours," she said.

She said finding the right person for vacancies took longer than usual. At the moment she is looking for a builder and experienced hammerhand.

SBS Bank Timaru branch manager Grant Husband said more property investors were getting back into the market with six-month fixed interest rates at 5.1 per cent and 5.65 per cent floating.

Todd Mudie, of Todd Mudie Group, has also noticed substantial growth throughout his three companies and attributes this to people in the district gaining financial confidence.

"A lot of the (house) plans are from 2009/2010. People are sick of waiting for the so-called recession to recover," he said.

Much of the work he is involved with is on new residential homes, or alterations to existing bathrooms and kitchens. He is seeking a tradesperson and three trainees.

About 70 per cent of Nolan Building Ltd's work is building from new. Owner Daniel Nolan said his team had jobs booked for the next eight months. To meet demand, staff worked 50 to 55 hours a week. Mr Nolan now has three staff as well as his wife working in the office. He is looking for a hammerhand and labourer.

The demand for construction industry workers does not appear to have translated into higher student numbers at Aoraki Polytechnic's foundation Certificate in Carpentry course.

Tutor Eion Miller said only 13 students had enrolled for this year's course so far, down from 22 last year.

The Todd Mudie Group has chosen to teach its own young staff at a cost of between $15,000 and $20,000 over four years.

"That way we get exactly what we want," Mr Mudie said.

Finding additional staff has not always been easy for Timaru-based Thompson Construction. Over the past three years it has more than doubled its staff numbers from 20 to 50.

Administrator Mark Baird said it was hard to get experienced staff, even for labouring positions. They had taken on a number of school-leavers and older workers who had been in the industry a long time.

"Some of the 50-year-olds are just as fit as the 30-year-olds. There's some in the industry close to 70, they know how to work smarter."

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He is hoping to fill a construction administration position.

Some workers are commuting to work on the Christchurch rebuild, leaving a depleted pool in Timaru.

- © Fairfax NZ News

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