The busyness of parents is among the factors being blamed for some children struggling with basic practical skills.
Timaru Technology Education Centre (TTEC) governing principal Ian Poulter attributes the lack of knowledge to parents working long hours.
"Family life has changed, parents are working weekends and kids spend more time on Playstations," he said.
Barnabas Trust manager Donald Talbot said a minority of the young people he dealt with, who had not been through TTEC, did not know how to cook, cut kindling, vacuum or change a tyre.
"Poorer people may not have a vacuum cleaner or it may not work very well," he said.
The lack of a male role model often meant boys missed out on the basics, Mr Talbot said.
He was surprised that some of his learners had no idea of how to paint a fence and either put too much paint on the brush, not enough, or missed swathes of the wood.
TTEC manager Ian Fettes said pupils had different skill sets to the previous generations. They could easily set up a website, manipulate graphics and use a digital camera, but may not be able to fix a bicycle chain.
The education centre has 850 year 7 and 8 students attending each week, who learn problem solving along with practical skills.
Unlike prescriptive manual classes of the past which focused on basic metal work, woodwork and cooking, children were now taught biotechnology, food technology, soft materials and design, hard materials, structures and mechanisms, electronics and control.
"They work out which is the best material to use and the effect it will have on the environment and social impact. They look at the bigger picture," Mr Fettes said.
If one child did not know how to use hand tools then another would and they worked as a team.
Mr Poulter said wrapping children in cotton wool did not help them learn.
He recalls when he was a child making a trolley, whizzing down hills, picking up a range of skills and learning consequences.
- © Fairfax NZ News