Plumbing, Drainlaying and Gasfitting project: improving outcomes for apprentices

In October 2021, the Plumbing, Drainlaying and Gasfitting (PDG) industry approached Waihanga Ara Rau, expressing concern about the Level 4 Apprenticeship Programme and the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on learners.

Sebastian Sekene 1440x700
Photo caption: Masterlink PDG apprentices Noah (left) and Sebastian (right), hosted by Heron Plumbing in Auckland, were visited onsite by Masterlink Regional Manager Pete Shields (centre) to discuss their training progress.


We investigated the situation and looked at what could be done to support the industry.

As a result, we produced a Plumbing, Drainlaying and Gasfitting (PDG) Review Report that included three short-term, and eight longer terms recommendations. All the recommendations were supported and adopted by the PDG Strategic Reference Group.  

Our initial focus was to support learners most affected by the cancellation of block courses during the Covid-19 pandemic. This meant that apprentices are behind in their training and their apprenticeship may take an additional 12 months to complete if nothing was done. Working together with Te Pūkenga, ICE, Masterlink and 10 contract assessors from across the country, we are now supporting 172 apprentices. The pilot will be extended in the New Year to support all apprentices who have been affected. 

Those involved have identified the learning gaps for apprentices in the pilot group and implemented a plan to support them to complete all their outstanding assessments. The employer has also been involved in this activity to ensure they can provide additional support and guidance in the workplace. 

The additional support may be through work-based assessment instead of by block course, where a learner can use naturally occurring evidence to meet the requirements of the assessment on the job. For learners, who may not be confident writers, assessments have been carried out via reader/writers or verbally. Additional night classes have been run to allow learners to focus on outstanding assessments. All projects have included coaching and mentoring to remove any roadblocks for learners and their employers. 

So far, feedback from learners and employers has been fantastic. All are very appreciative of the additional support they are getting, and learners are getting caught up to where they should be. Other people working on these projects are gaining a lot too, learning new ways to progress learners, collectively and collaboratively. 

Get in touch if you want to contribute to the project as an assessor.  

Revision of delivery model

Another project is the revision of the current delivery model to enable flexibility for both learners and their employers and to reduce the reliance on block course delivery. A new Level 3 and Level 4 New Zealand Programme will ensure there is a seamless transition from the Level 3 pre-trade into the Level 4 apprenticeship. It will include a flexible blended delivery model, where learners and their employers can choose how learners gain their skills and knowledge. This might be in the workplace, via a block course, or online, depending on the work they are exposed to on the job and how they would like to learn. 

A draft programme framework has been developed using the PDG Technical Advisory Group (PDG TAG) in early November. We are currently gathering feedback from the PDG TAG and their networks, with a view to refining the proposed Programme. The next step is to consult with the wider industry through online webinars and face-to-face workshops in the New Year. Once finalised a transition plan will be developed to enable all learners to transition to the new delivery model without being disadvantaged. We are aiming for the transition date to be January 2024. 

Register to attend a webinar.

Capability and capacity review for PDG providers

The final project is to conduct a capability and capacity review for all PDG providers across the motu. This information will allow us to understand the current capability of the provider network and what the future capability should be for the New Zealand programme going forward. It will also allow industry and providers to address any identified barriers to increasing or improving current capacity and capability and identify examples of best practice throughout the provider network. We are currently gathering information and visiting the provider sites. A report will be published in the New Year with the results of this mahi.  

Waihanga Ara Rau is leading these projects on behalf of the PDG industry, and they are being overseen by the PDG Strategic Reference Group that was established in early 2022. Industry, providers of training, TEC, the PDG Board, and members of the Technical Advisory Group are all working collaboratively to address the current barriers for learning to ensure all PDG apprentices can complete their apprenticeship on time and that the pathway is more flexible and of high quality going forward. 

Get in touch to find out more

(l to r) Mike Henson, Head of Trades WINTEC, Mike Grumball (GM Assurance, PDG Project Sponsor), Dan Roling, PDG Tutor WINTEC, discussing the proposed NZ Programme at the discovery session held 20 October at WINTEC.