Construction workforce, apprenticeships hit record highs

  • Hon Jenny Salesa
Building and Construction

Working with industry and committing to rebuild New Zealand’s infrastructure has produced a record high number of Kiwis working in the construction industry and learning trades, says Minister for Building and Construction Jenny Salesa.

New figures available today from the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment and the Tertiary Education Commission show the building and construction industry workforce is growing and it’s becoming more diverse.

“Since the Coalition Government came to power, there are an extra 11,000 Kiwis working in the construction sector helping to build the houses, schools, hospitals, roads and rail New Zealand needs.”

“In just two years

  • about a thousand more Māori New Zealanders have joined the construction industry;
  • over 2,700 women;
  • 2,800 more Asian New Zealanders;
  • and almost 600 more Pacific people on the tools, than there was just two years ago.”

“We’ve achieved this record construction workforce by working with industry through the Construction Sector Accord, delivering the Construction Skills Action plan, and pulling every lever to encourage more Kiwis into the trades.”

“Our Government has made trades training fees-free for the first two years and over 3,900 Kiwis have taken up the opportunity to learn a construction trade without fees already. Many people don’t know that you can get two years fees-free to study a trade now. What better way to learn and earn without taking on debt than learning a trade?”

“We’ve also raised the status of the trades through the Prime Minister’s Vocational Excellence Awards where we supported schools to award 345 high school students $2,000 each to recognise their passion for the trades at prize givings last year.”

“By making training more attractive with fees-free and prioritising apprenticeships through our new Procurement Rules, our Government is already seeing a big rise in the number of apprentices. The number of construction apprenticeships in industry training is up 20 percent since 2017, with an 4,700 additional apprentices being trained in the construction trades at any one time.”

“Under this Government there are:

  • 30 percent more Māori apprentices;
  • 40 percent more Asian apprentices;
  • 47 percent more Pacific apprentices;
  • and 56 percent more female apprentices.

“It’s not only about the Government’s efforts to boost apprenticeships that’s achieved these fantastic record figures, the fact is that more employers are hiring because they’re finally getting certainty about the future of the industry and clear signals from the Government that we’re here for the long haul alongside them - we’ll keep investing in New Zealand’s future.”

“The National Construction Pipeline Report shows national construction activity over the next five years is forecast to total $214.9 billion, with that figure set to rise following the Government’s announcement in December of a fresh $12 billion in investment to tackle New Zealand’s infrastructure deficit over the next five years.”

“We can only get the construction workforce New Zealand needs by working with industry to tackle the long-term challenges. Later this week we’ll be releasing our Construction Sector Transformation Plan that lays out the concrete steps we’ll take together to turn our country’s construction sector into one of the most productive in the world, so we continue to build the houses, schools, hospitals, roads and rail New Zealand needs.” says Jenny Salesa.


  1. Construction industry workforce figures compare September 2017 (last government) and December 2019 (current government, most available figures) (MBIE: December 2019)
  2. Apprentice figures are for combined construction apprenticeship numbers across all industry training organisations (ITOs) from the Industry Training Register (Tertiary Education Commission: January 2020). 2019 figures are provisional and subject to change.
  3. Fees-free enrolments (Tertiary Education Commission: Two years to December 2019 [unpublished])
  4. PM’s Award for Vocational Excellence Recipient Numbers (Ministry of Education: December 2019 [unpublished])
  5. Construction activity projections (National Construction Pipeline Report: MBIE, 2019)