Construction career a “good way to go”

Construction career a “good way to go”

There’s plenty of talk about the construction industry right now.

Some say more skilled workers are needed now, others warn the construction industry boom could peak(external link). Rising costs in the industry have been blamed on increased wages due to the worker shortage(external link) of which an estimated 30,000 workers are needed by 2019(external link) and if the demand cannot be filled who knows what next?

Despite all the media ‘to and fro’, the stats and numbers stack up, and the benefits of being in the trades industry are as rosy as ever.

To verify this, we spoke to Richard Mabbot, Construction Manager at Gibbons Construction(external link), for an insider’s view of the industry. We hope the information below helps you better understand the reality for construction workers. We also hope the insights offered helps you in your decision-making.

The worker shortfall is real but not new

  • The shortfall started back in the 80s after apprenticeship training was stopped. 
  • This created a void in the market of professional construction or trade qualified industry people for a 10 year period. Add another 5 years to train new workers and you effectively had a 15 year shortfall of trained and skilled workers.

Richard said they are finally seeing 30 to 35 year olds coming through who are suitably skilled. This is due in part to places like NMIT bringing back apprenticeships and work placements, but for a while there, Richard says, ‘it was a bit of a hit and miss’.

“If you look at it in simple terms, you should see a bunch of people from 35 years down coming through as skilled workers. How many skilled trade workers? I’m not sure, but they’re definitely putting more through now. We are anyway.”

Increasing costs in construction not due to wage hikes

According to Richard the tender market is ‘not an easy game to play’ but he doesn’t blame it on the wages. “I would probably look more towards the regulations and health and safety. There’s a massive cost in health and safety compliance. Buying the timber and getting the builders I think you’ll find is not that expensive.”

On that note, qualified construction workers can earn $100k plus per year

  • On average, cadets can take home between $45,000 and $60,000, foremen and site managers between $75,000 and $90,000, and project managers between $100,000 and $110,000.
  • At Gibbons, qualified carpenters earn between $24.50 to $29 per hour. “It’s no lie, you can earn a great living if you’re a good skilled worker,” says Richard.

Commercial construction firms like Gibbons look for team players with wide-ranging skills

  • Gibbons Construction do most of their work in the commercial sector. Therefore, they look for people with the biggest range of construction skills possible. 
  • In commercial construction, you might be involved in property subdivision work, commercial and industrial building work, or office space building design. 
  • On an average day you could be pouring concrete in the ground or finishing offices and shop fit outs, but they do group workers into areas where they are best suited.

It’s not always about training and qualifications for Gibbons. Richard personally picks out workers who also have the best personality and fit.

“Of the apprentices we’ve just taken on, one was a young guy in his mid-twenties who’d been opening mussels for the last three years. I thought if he can do that for three years he’ll make a good worker. For me personally, it’s more how people fit into the team environment. If you’ve got a large team of guys and you’ve got one [who doesn’t fit in] it’s hard work.”

There is greater flexibility with employee agreements

  • Gibbons Construction employ full time staff, contract workers and temp staff.

“The days are gone where an employer says ‘this is what you do, this is when you go home, this is what we’re paying you’.” Gibbons Construction have a very wide range of employment contracts. “Because it is hard to get good workers we will work around our workers.”

Finally, peak construction not likely

“From a personal view, I can’t see it. I’m more in-line with Warwick Quinn(external link), if anything I believe it may level out.”

Richard’s advice for parents and students

“Generally, I might have rose coloured glasses on, but the construction industry is a pretty good way to go if you’re not academically inclined. I didn’t even make 15 when I finished school but I’ve got into the construction trade and it’s got me all around the world working everywhere.”

Richard has worked on construction jobs in Papua New Guinea, Malaysia and Switzerland. “I’ve never been out of a job ,” he says. “I went and got a trade which is paying dividends now, so yeah. I’m happy.”

Gibbons Construction and NMIT in partnership

  • There are currently seven NMIT apprentices either at work or completing their work placement at Gibbons. This figure changes from year to year. 

They’ve just taken on a quantity surveyor and a project manager who are both NMIT students. “We’ve also got a young lady and a young guy who have just come on in the design part. You name it, you can do anything you like.”

Richard personally hires many of the workers and values the relationship developed with NMIT. “Getting them out of NMIT they’ve already gained skills. They’ve done that year long programme first. They’ve got all the basic skills already so it’s a win for us. They’re all a bit further on. So that’s good.”

NMIT offers:

If planning and design is more your sort of thing, then check out the New Zealand Diploma in Engineering (Civil Engineering) (Level 6).

Learn more at

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