New Zealand’s job market can be a fickle place.

Those with brand new qualifications are often somehow expected to have years of experience when applying for some jobs. Paradoxically, those with years of experience are often overlooked for positions simply because they don’t have the ‘appropriate’ qualification.

‘Book learning’ and hands-on practical training have often appeared poles apart.

After high school in the 90s many of my classmates went to university because it was just ‘what you did’. There was even a bit of a stigma associated with those who took up trades – often having dropped out of school before seventh form (year 13).

Those who trained in the trades did so locally, while those who went off to main centre universities left their regional hometowns, some never to return. Many regional areas, like Hawke’s Bay, suffered demographically and economically as a result.

Fees-free fortuity

Fast-forward 25 years and many with degrees still struggle under onerous student debt to get the job they want and are facing the prospect of retraining yet again, while those who took up a trade years ago are reaping the rewards.

Meanwhile, in the midst of a nationwide housing shortage there aren’t enough carpenters, plumbers and electricians and the likes to go around. Waiting times for building and renovation work can stretch to months.

The New Zealand government announced in its 2020 budget a plan to try and tackle both issues.

The Targeted Training and Apprenticeships Fund (TTAF) will aid those taking on vocational training without fees.

The TTAF will cover course fees from 1 July 2020 to 31 December 2022 and is paid directly to tertiary education organisations running training in targeted areas such as primary industries (including agriculture, horticulture and viticulture, fisheries and forestry); construction (including building, plumbing, and civil engineering) and manufacturing, mechanical and electrical engineering and technology.

Fortunately for Hawke’s Bay our Eastern Institute of Technology caters to many of those categories!

This will hopefully see a boom in the number of local qualified tradespeople, greater housing availability and affordability in the region, and the condition and quality of civil infrastructure that has been badly neglected over the years improving much sooner.

Building a better Hawke’s Bay

Long before the TTAF was introduced, Hawke’s Bay’s Eastern Institute of Technology was already looking for new and creative ways to provide a hands-on experience with construction for their trades students.

In 2010 EIT approached Cottages NZ in Hastings who were, at the time, designing and constructing prefabricated buildings for a wide range of customers in the residential and commercial sector. They asked manager John Roil if it was OK for the tertiary institution to construct prefabricated buildings.

Roil thought it was a great idea and offered Cottages NZ to assist EIT with the project in the form of design, assistance with inspections during construction and marketing the buildings once they were completed.

Ten years and hundreds of students getting hands-on training and experience later, EIT students completed their 50th house in May!

How have HB Homes and EIT been able to consistently put out around five houses a year, while simultaneously teaching those constructing them? “The secret to these projects is to get scale and suitable designs which allow for the multiple constructions,” John says.

There is no chance of these builds being cold and damp like many older New Zealand homes, with all construction meeting current Building Code requirements that include double glazing, insulation, etc.

Construction of the prefab houses takes place at a variety of sites.

“Some building projects are completed at NZ Cottages/Hawke’s Bay Homes’ site on Maraekakaho Road in Hastings, but most builds are occurring at the EIT campus in Taradale. Wairoa, Waipukurau, Dannevirke and Tairawhiti (Gisborne) have all been the locations of completed building projects in the past as well,” says Roil.

“A wide range of building designs from 10m2 up to 80m2 residential buildings have been constructed by the EIT students. These range from 1 bedroom up to 3 bedroom homes. In the past some of the projects including the construction of commercial classrooms.”

Once completed some of the prefab houses are listed for sale on HB Homes’ website:

There are currently eight listed, with four sold. Roil says recent sales have become holiday homes in northern and central Hawke’s Bay, one has been converted into an office (showing their adaptability), while others have been moved onto existing properties as homes for elderly parents to be closer to family.

“There is a lot of interest from various groups looking for an opportunity to move into the prefabricated housing market, particularly since there is a shortage of homes across Hawke’s Bay” Roil says.

“Papakāinga housing is a classic example where the land is already available. Similarly with Kāinga Ora (formerly Housing New Zealand) and the need for social housing.”

He continues, “There is a definite need for training, and constructing homes in a factory environment provides an ideal learning and working situation. When you consider all the jobs that are created with construction such as design, construction builders, plumbers, drainlayers, electricians, decorators, kitchen designers, roofers, surveyors, engineers, the list goes on, EIT has provided a vital role with providing students an introduction to the construction industry.”

This really seems to be the perfect collaboration of Hawke’s Bay people and businesses working together for the betterment of the region. EIT trades students learn practical construction skills and methods, earning qualifications, while building much needed homes in Hawke’s Bay, housing locals!

ABOVE: John Roil with EIT trade students. Photo: Tom Allan


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