What subjects should I take at school if I want to learn a trade?

Most pre-trades courses won’t require you to have done specific subjects in secondary school, but you should make sure you meet NCEA’s literacy and numeracy requirements.

Some secondary schools let you start learning a trade while you’re at school, combining your NCEA studies with trades courses. There are also trades academies that teach pre-trade courses to students in Year 11 to 13, while you’re still enrolled in school. You can find out more about these options on the careers.govt.nz website.

Is learning a trade just for people who can’t get into university?

Not at all! There’s an old stereotype that tradies are less academic, but the reality is that all types of people join the trades. Successful tradespeople are good at problem solving, communication and attention to detail, and enjoy doing practical work as part of a team.

When you learn a trade, you know you’re building the skills you need on the job. That’s not always true with uni degrees. In fact, up to 30% of university graduates then go into the trades, as their qualifications haven’t necessarily helped them into a vocation. Plus, trades apprenticeships mean you can earn money as you learn!

And if you’re wondering if you’ll earn less as a tradie, a recent report by economic think tank BERL found a career in the trades is just as financially lucrative across a lifetime as a university degree.

Am I strong enough to be a tradie?

Yes! Some people worry they’re not strong enough for trades work, particularly women since the trades has traditionally been a male-dominated industry. But the truth is, most trainees – regardless of gender – build up their strength and fitness on the job, and the really heavy lifting is usually done by machines. Besides, there’s much more to being a great tradesperson than how much you can lift. Employers are looking for team players with good communication and problem solving skills, along with initiative and great attention to detail.

Can women work in the trades?

Yes! They can, and many already are. It’s true that the trades industry has been male dominated. But that’s changing, and more and more wahine (women) are joining the industry. That’s good news, because we need more women in the trades.

Auckland Tourism, Events and Economic Development (ATEED) estimates there’ll be 56,000 new jobs in construction by 2029 – far more than the 24,000 jobs created in the past decade. Having more women in the trades will play a big part in meeting the long-term skills shortage in the industry. Find out more about being a woman in the trades.