Apprenticeships back in favour with employers

Industries faced with skills shortages

NARELLE HENSON
Last updated 09:54 28/06/2014
skills, apprentices
CHRIS HILLOCK/Fairfax NZ
HOSPITALITY INSIGHTS: Jacqui Cribb of the Phoenix Group, pictured with trainee Greer Martin, says the education investment pays off.

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Waikato employers are increasingly turning to earn-while-you-learn schemes to meet skills shortages.

The Hamilton franchise of Porse this month set up a "nanny apprenticeship" programme aimed at meeting increasing demand in the region.

Franchise owner Karleen Hennessey said that between 2003 and 2013, the number of families employing a Porse nanny doubled to more than 2000, and government statistics showed an increase of almost 50 per cent in the number of home-based early childhood education services over the past five years.

Hennessey said young nannies struggled to find jobs because they had not had enough previous work.

"The nanny intern really is for the girls who haven't been able to get a job because they don't have the experience."

The course has students spending a day in the classroom each week, then 20 hours of work experience with a family. Porse receives funding from the Ministry of Education, so the internship course is free.

The Phoenix Group's Jacqui Cribb said the hospitality organisation had recently restarted some apprenticeship courses, and had launched a brewer's training course. It faced a shortage of chefs, and apprenticeships worked well because students could be trained to meet the company's needs, she said.

One apprentice graduated last week and another is in training. One brewer is currently in training.

Cribb said the investment of about $5000 a year, covering course fees, time off on block courses and training, was worth it in the long run as the company employed "100 per cent" of those who went through apprenticeships.

She said the biggest challenge for recruitment was "letting people know that hospitality is a serious career".

"[It] is difficult because a lot of people think hospitality is a stepping stone to their ‘real' jobs."

Waikato Tainui employment broker Kawena Jones said the group recently focused on earn-while-you-learn initiatives.

While creating employment opportunities is a key focus of the organisation, skills shortages and high youth unemployment were behind a move to increase the number of youth it pulled into work through programmes at the start of this year.

It now has 15 cadetships across fishing, engineering, business and retail banking businesses.

Jones said the move was about providing tribal members with qualifications that would enable them to progress through a career, or carry on with further training.

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Longveld managing director Pam Roa said skills shortages had been a constant challenge in manufacturing.

"We take seriously our responsibility to train future generations to address this."

Of the 96 people employed by the company, seven are in formal training through apprenticeships.

The company also provides work experience for university students and high school students.

Roa said it was important to remember that taking on young people meant they would have a lot to learn.

"We set realistic expectations, work hard at providing clarity, meaningful training and good communication, and give them a chance to learn from their mistakes," she said.

"We also will connect with the young person's family, if appropriate, to provide a seamless support network around them."

Smart Waikato chief executive Mary Jensen works with industry, training organisations and schools to get young people into work. She said employers were aware there were not enough workers coming through training institutions.

"They understand that they have to start at the grassroots and develop their own workforce, it's a long-term solution."

She said it was "a good idea to have a pipeline of people at the different stages" so that when an employee moved up into a more senior position, juniors were ready to take their place.

However, she warned that many employers did not know how to bring juniors on board "effectively".

"There is a good way of doing it. We've looked at best practice and we are wanting to share that with people so that there are successful transitions into the workplace.

"It's about planning properly, and having a buddy system, and making sure people are clearly inducted."

She said the organisation had several free tools available to help employers hire young staff.

- Waikato

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