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Icon image of Finishing Trades strategic sector of Waihanga Ara Rau Workforce Development Council

Finishing Trades

The Finishing trades strategic sector includes the following industries, trades and roles:
  • Flooring
  • Kitchen & Bathroom Design
  • Painting & Decorating
  • Floor & Wall Tiling
  • Exterior Plastering
  • Carpet and resilient flooring installer
  • Flooring planner and designer, site assessor and estimator
  • Trowel applied resin applicator, flow applied resin applicator
  • Moisture treatment operator, underlayment system installer, mechanical preparation contractor, concrete polishing contactor
  • Timber floor installer, composite floor installer, fine floor sander and finisher 
  • Kitchen designer, bathroom designer, kitchen design and sales consultant,  bathroom design and sales consultant
  • Painter and decorator
  • Tiler, exterior plasterer


This report represents descriptive information about Finishing Trades sector. It includes number of employees, businesses, and learners in this sector, and provides demographic information about them. It also gives employment, supply-demand and new-entrants forecast. The report focuses on selected range of industries and Qualifications in Finishing trades sector. You
can find the detailed list of these in the appendix section.

For detailed information on how to use the report, report notes and data sources, please look below the dashboard. 

  • Workforce
    Cyclical Nature of the Construction Industry: The construction industry, including the finishing trades sector, experiences cyclical patterns influenced by government policies and economic conditions. These cycles of boom and bust create volatility, leading to uncertainties and disruptions for businesses and workers. Adapting to the industry's cyclical nature presents a significant challenge for stakeholders. Lack of Long-Term Planning: A prominent issue within the sector is the perceived lack of long-term planning in the finishing trades sector. Short-term goals and policies that change with different governments hinder the industry's growth and stability. The absence of comprehensive, multi-year plans for housing and commercial infrastructure needs poses significant obstacles. Skill Shortages and Labour Challenges: The finishing trades sector faces challenges in attracting and retaining skilled tradespeople. The shortage of labour in these trades results in difficulties finding qualified workers. Additionally, the process of bringing in skilled workers from other countries can be bureaucratic and expensive. Addressing skill shortages and labour challenges is critical for maintaining a capable and sustainable workforce. Negative Perception of Trades: Trades within the finishing trades sector, such as painting and tiling, often suffer from a negative perception compared to academic pathways. Career advisors in high schools may not actively promote trades as viable career options, leading to a lack of awareness and interest among students. Efforts are needed to change this perception and highlight the benefits and opportunities offered by trade careers. Need for Industry Promotion and Collaboration: Promoting trades effectively is crucial not only within secondary schools but also to the general public. Public campaigns and advertisements can help raise awareness and generate interest in trade careers. Furthermore, collaboration between government entities, industry organisations, and businesses is essential to address the industry's challenges, including skill shortages and the negative perception of trades. Material Supply and Economic Factors: Factors such as the availability of building materials and the state of the economy have a significant impact on the finishing trades sector. Disruptions in the supply chain, as seen during the COVID-19 pandemic, can affect project timelines and overall productivity. Economic recessions and fluctuations further contribute to uncertainties within the industry. Apprenticeship and Training Support: Acknowledging the importance of apprenticeships and training for developing a skilled workforce, the sector faces concerns regarding the financial burden and risks associated with employing apprentices. Government support and incentives for businesses to take on apprentices, along with improved financial conditions for apprentices, are recommended to address these challenges effectively. Industry-Specific Insights: In the tiling sub-sector, poor installation practices, failure to follow instructions and standards, and health and safety risks related to silicosis are prominent issues. Leak prevention in bathrooms is identified as a significant challenge, requiring adherence to correct procedures and best practices. Training and certification programmes in the tiling industry need improvement and better oversight from industry associations. Challenges for the Kitchen and Bathroom Sector: The kitchen and bathroom sub-sector faces specific challenges. The end of the Fees Free scheme has impacted training enrolment, posing a potential shortage of qualified professionals. An aging workforce and a lack of qualified leaders also pose challenges. Additionally, the industry's outlook may be affected by the recession.
  • Training & Education
    Positive Initiatives and Successes: The apprentice boost scheme, which provides funding for employers, has been recognised as a positive and effective initiative. It has enabled companies to invest more time in training apprentices, leading to benefits for both employers and apprentices. Additionally, the apprenticeship scheme in collaboration with BCITO has been well-received, offering dedicated case officers who proactively support both employers and apprentices. Regional Training Gaps: Significant challenges exist in training apprentices in remote regions such as Westport and Blenheim. These areas face a shortage of apprentices, necessitating the recruitment of apprentices from other locations to fulfill workforce requirements. Need for Comprehensive and Practical Training: Stakeholders have expressed concerns about the current apprenticeship system being more of a tick-box exercise rather than providing comprehensive training. There is a demand for more extensive training programmes, particularly at higher levels like level 4. Additionally, stakeholders emphasise the need for training programmes that incorporate technological skills relevant to the construction industry. Dissatisfaction with the Apprenticeship System: Certain employers are dissatisfied with the current apprenticeship system, perceiving it as inadequate for providing relevant training. Differences in training outcomes have been observed between design and production apprenticeships, further contributing to dissatisfaction. Challenges in Attracting and Training a Diverse Workforce: Efforts to attract and train a diverse workforce need improvement. Stakeholders identify the importance of addressing cultural competency, climate change considerations, leadership training within businesses, legislative reform changes, and upskilling of experienced workers to achieve a more diverse and inclusive workforce. Practical and Targeted Solutions: There is a clear demand for practical and targeted training solutions that address specific industry gaps. Stakeholders emphasise the importance of developing these solutions in collaboration with the sector and ensuring they are easily implementable, particularly for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). Role of Organisations and Support: Key organisations involved in the Reform of Vocational Education (RoVE) reforms have a vital role in developing and delivering training solutions. Private sector involvement and the adoption of best practice models are recognised as valuable contributions to addressing the training needs of the construction industry. Challenges and Support for Apprentices: The transition from a hardcopy monitoring system to an online electronic system has posed challenges for employers in tracking apprentices' progress. Some apprentices struggle with self-management, particularly in managing their time and assignments effectively. Additionally, apprentices with reading and writing difficulties, such as dyslexia, may require additional support and guidance to overcome these challenges. Work Ethic and Attitudes: A perceived difference in work ethic and loyalty between older generations and younger apprentices has been noted. Older generations are described as more willing to go the extra mile and meet deadlines, while younger apprentices tend to prioritise personal time and may lack the same level of loyalty towards their employers. Emphasis on Competency and Skill Proficiency: The current training system is criticised for placing greater emphasis on passing rather than ensuring overall competency. Stakeholders advocate for increased focus on skill proficiency and suggest expanding teaching and training programmes to cover specialised areas, such as coating, spraying, and wallpapering. Collaboration and Coordination: Improved collaboration and coordination between different organisations responsible for theoretical and practical assessments, such as NKBA and BCITO, are necessary to ensure a more cohesive and streamlined training experience. Similarly, collaboration and coordination between trades and builders from the beginning of a project are crucial to ensure correct construction practices and prevent failures. Recognition of Prior Learning: There is a significant need for better recognition and acknowledgment of prior learning for individuals entering the construction trade with relevant qualifications. This recognition would help utilise their existing knowledge and skills effectively. Licensing and Certification: The delivery of apprenticeship training programmes in the construction industry requires improvement, particularly in terms of licensing and certification for specific trades. Stakeholders emphasise the urgency of expediting the licensing process for tilers and waterproof installers to ensure the proper construction of wet areas. Knowledge Sharing and Best Practices: Knowledge sharing through webinars, videos, adherence to building codes, and dissemination of best practices are identified as effective measures to address industry gaps and prevent future failures.
  • Māori and Pacific peoples in education and the workforce
    Equal Opportunities in Hiring: Several participants acknowledged that their organisation does not consider race or ethnicity when making hiring decisions. The focus is on identifying the best candidate for the job based on skills, qualifications, and attitude towards work. Māori and Pacific Peoples: Some participants stated that attracting and retaining Māori and Pacific employees should be approached similarly to any other employee. They highlighted the importance of a good work attitude and willingness to work as key criteria for selection. Varied Soft Skills: Soft skills, such as leadership, time management, and motivation, vary from person to person. Some individuals possess these skills naturally, while others may require additional development and support. Impact of External Factors: Family situations and external factors can significantly impact an employee's work performance. One participant mentioned dealing with issues related to drugs, mental illness, and relationships within the workforce, highlighting the need for supportive measures and resources. Improved Employee Willingness and Value: Some participants observed an improvement in employee willingness to work and value their jobs, potentially attributed to the perception of tougher economic conditions. This positive shift in attitude has contributed to a more motivated and positive team. Partnerships with Māori and Pacific peoples: Many participants acknowledged a need to develop stronger partnerships with Māori and Pacific peoples. However, mentioned that there are challenges arising from a lack of knowledge and understanding in this area, hindering effective collaboration. Addressing Historical Disparities: The organisation aims to increase the number of Māori and Pacific employees and members. They recognise the importance of addressing historical disparities within the sector and providing opportunities for advancement to foster success as business owners and leaders. Cultural Competency and Support: To attract and retain Māori and Pacific peoples in the workforce, some participants stressed the need for improved cultural competency, training providers, and business support systems. Accessible training formats, translations, visual presentations, and simplified language were highlighted as essential components. Reputation and Quality Challenges: The tiling industry faces challenges related to reputation and quality. One interviewee emphasised the necessity for better construction methodology and training to ensure durable and compliant installations. Lack of Awareness and Understanding: There was acknowledgment of a lack of awareness and understanding within the industry regarding the Treaty of Waitangi and the importance of supporting Māori aspirations and success. Addressing this knowledge gap is crucial for creating an inclusive and supportive work environment.


We present the 'Sector Voice' report, as a part of the Workforce Development Plan, which highlights the main challenges and opportunities in the Finishing Trades sector. Our aim is to provide valuable insights through conducting an overview of the sector and performing a thematic analysis of experiences and perspectives shared by sector representatives on workforce, training, education, diversity, and inclusion. Additionally, we outline subsequent actions that need to be taken.

Our primary goal with this report is to aid Waihanga Ara Rau, sector groups, and Government bodies in their future planning endeavours. Together, we aim to enhance the vocational education system and effectively meet the needs of the Finishing Trades sector.


  • Finishing Trades contribute to the final stages of construction projects, encompassing skilled trades like painting, decorating, flooring, kitchen and bathroom design, floor and wall tiling, and interior and exterior plastering.

  • The sector contributes 7% to New Zealand's economy in terms of Gross Domestic Product (GDP). It employs 29,270 people, primarily located in Auckland due to its large population, followed by Canterbury, Wellington, and Waikato.¹

  • In 2018, the sector saw an increase in the attraction of younger people compared to 2013, with 15–19-year-olds experiencing a 19% growth. However, they only comprised 4% of the workforce.²

  • The employment of individuals aged 65 years and older increased by 30%, reflecting a trend consistent with the overall workforce where New Zealanders are continuing to work into their retirement years.³ 

  • New Zealand-born individuals make up just over two-thirds of the finishing trades workforce, while 20% are born in Europe and Asia. The Paints Trade Worker is by far the most common trade, followed by Solid Plaster and Builders Labourer.⁴

  • In 2022, Government incentives, such as The Apprenticeship Boost and Fees Free, effectively supported the 4195 learners, with 98% enrolled predominantly in formal work-based learning.⁵  Additionally, career changers comprised most apprentices, with their average age falling between 25-30 years old.

  • Labour shortages, skills shortages, and supply issues are significant trends in the sector because they directly impact the workforce. These challenges arise partly due to an aging workforce, ongoing COVID-19 impacts, and difficulties in retaining employees. With the borders reopening, they’re experiencing heightened competition for skilled workers, exacerbating skill shortages as some New Zealanders seek opportunities abroad while immigration slows. 

  • In the past, Finishing Trades were male dominated, but recent years saw active promotion of gender diversity, encouraging more women to pursue trades careers. This approach widened the talent pool and had a significant impact on the sector's workforce. Partnerships with Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE), Te Pūkenga (BCITO), Women in Trades (WIT), and National Association of Women in Construction (NAWIC) drive this progress. Women in trades grew by 71% from 2012 to 2022, but sustained efforts are needed for further progress.  

  • The sector follows safety, quality, and industry best practice policies and regulations. These cover workplace safety, licensing, consent procedures, and environmental considerations. Key examples are the Building Act 2004, Resource Management Act (RMA), Building Code, and immigration policies. Staying informed and updating the workforce ensures safety and productivity.

¹ Sourced from Finishing Trades Dashboard

² Sourced from Finishing Trades Dashboard

³ Sourced from Finishing Trades Dashboard

 Sourced from Finishing Trades Dashboard

⁵ Sourced from Finishing Trades Dashboard


We conducted a qualitative research study to explore the challenges and opportunities in the Finishing Trades sector. We conducted semi-structured interviews with members of the Strategic Reference Group, sector associations, and business owners in fields like painting, decorating, kitchen and bathroom design, tiling, and flooring. These individual virtual interviews took place between April and May 2023, with each interview lasting 30-45 minutes. The focus of these interviews was to gain insights and perspectives on workforce challenges, training and education, and diversity and inclusion within the sector. Prior to the interviews, we provided sector representatives with the interview questions to ensure they were well-prepared. 

In addition to the interviews, we included information from previous engagements between Waihanga Ara Rau and the sector, as well as Strategic Reference Group discussions, to capture collective perspectives.

We used thematic analysis to analyse the qualitative data obtained from interviews and group discussions. We transcribed, coded, and organised the data into themes to identify recurring patterns, challenges, and opportunities within the sector.

Throughout the study, we followed ethical considerations, including obtaining informed consent from all sector representatives and ensuring confidentiality of their responses.

However, we acknowledge the study's limitations, particularly the lack of diverse sector representatives, such as Māori and Pacific Peoples. Nevertheless, the research findings will inform the Workforce Development Plan and guide the recommendations within it, providing valuable advice to the Tertiary Education Commission (TEC). 


Labour and Skills Shortages

Perception and Reputation of the Sector

Training and Education Gaps

Lack of Diversity and Inclusion



The Finishing Trades sector is facing a severe labour shortage, leading them to hire temporary workers due to limited availability of skilled labour. Unfortunately, immigration challenges hinder efforts to bring in skilled workers from overseas, further exacerbated by the impacts of COVID-19. A scarcity of middle-skilled workers contributes to a contraction phase, affecting overall work quality.

Addressing these challenges necessitates prioritising the promotion of Finishing Trades careers to young people, underrepresented groups, and career changers. Encouraging more individuals to consider trades as viable career options is crucial. Seeking government support and advocating for regulatory reforms are essential steps to overcome these hurdles effectively.

Engaging with Māori and Pacific Peoples requires developing cultural competency and providing language support for equal opportunities within the sector. Strategic planning and proactive steps are vital for long-term sustainability, addressing issues related to immigration processes, RMA consenting, compliance, and building code complexities.


In terms of the next steps, we will:


  1. Engage a diverse range of sector representatives in interview sessions to capture various perspectives, including graduates, underrepresented groups like Māori and Pacific Peoples, and workers. 

  2. Collaborate with SRG members to formulate report recommendations, develop an action plan, and provide TEC advice.

  3. Take responsibility for successfully implementing the Workforce Development Plan and oversee its progress to identify any challenges or opportunities for improvement.

  4. Foster collaborations with sector representatives in the Finishing Trades sector, including industry representatives, businesses, and Iwi/Māori communities. 


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