Ministry of Business and Innovation - Occupation Outlook

Occupation Outlook | Main MBIE Site

Construction Workers

Job Prospects

Job Prospects... At a glance

Job prospects for construction workers are good over the next few years, due to growing building activity in Auckland. Other regions still have many opportunities.

How to become a construction worker

What they do

Construction workers work on big and small building sites, and on roads and other large civil construction projects. Mostly they do manual labouring, but they can be involved in all aspects of the construction process that do not require a trade apprenticeship or graduate qualifications. Construction workers often assist qualified builders in specific areas, and some may work towards a specific qualification in building.

As well as labouring, more specialised, non-trade roles are available in construction work. These include concrete work, fencing, building insulation, scaffolding, mining, crane operation, and other construction or earth-moving machinery operation. Some of these roles require more specialised skills and training.

Their task may include:

  • loading and unloading building and construction materials, tools and equipment and transporting them around building sites
  • erecting and dismantling temporary structures such as barricades and scaffolding
  • mixing, pouring and spreading materials such as concrete, plaster and mortar
  • using ladders, swinging scaffolds, bosun's chairs, hydraulic bucket trucks and other equipment to reach and demolish multi-storey structures
  • cleaning and carrying out minor repairs on stormwater drains and canals, and checking for cracks and leaks in sewerage systems
  • digging holes and shovelling excavated material onto conveyors, wheelbarrows and trucks for removal
  • spreading and levelling soil, gravel and sand on roads and driveways, trench bottoms and similar locations
  • assisting with assembling and installing piping, valves and fittings
  • assisting with installing fixtures such as toilets, wash basins and sprinkler systems.


There is no entry requirement for most kinds of construction work. Most skills are learned on the job, although employers also often put their construction workers through short courses relevant to a specific job. For example, a firm with a large number of road construction jobs may put many of their workers through a traffic management course.

Two kinds of construction work that do require specific qualifications are scaffolding and crane operation. No qualifications are needed to work as a scaffolders’ labourer, but they must work under the supervision of a qualified scaffolder. However, a qualified scaffolder needs to hold at least a New Zealand Certificate in Scaffolding (Level 3). This qualification takes three years to complete.

A New Zealand Certificate in Crane Operation (Levels 3 and 4) is needed to work as a crane operator. Before starting this, a New Zealand Certificate in Cranes – Dogman Operations must be completed. These qualifications take three years or less to complete.

Some secondary schools, polytechnics and private training establishments also offer national certificates in construction skills, usually at Level 2 or 3. These certificates can be useful for people looking to get their first job in construction.

While there are generally no formal education requirements, construction workers need to be physically fit because of the nature of the work. Many employers also require new employees to pass a drug test before starting on the job.

Cost of study

Learn on the job

The least expensive way to start as a construction worker is to apply for positions and, if successful, learn on the job. Employers will sometimes pay for new workers to complete certifications if any are needed.

Rents vary from place to place. Estimated market rents by region, city and suburb are available on the MBIE Tenancy Services website.

The StudyLink website provides general budget advice for students, and the Sorted website provides help with detailed budget planning.

Tenancy Services:

Where to study

Construction skills can be studied at secondary schools, polytechnics, and private training providers throughout New Zealand. However, in most instances, formal training before starting work in an entry-level construction worker role is unnecessary.

For scaffolders and crane operators, the Skills Organisation is the Industry Training Organisation (ITO) that handles apprenticeships and qualifications. Apprenticeships can be completed in all parts of the country.

The Skills Organisation:


Licensing is not required for most construction work. However, a driver’s licence may be useful and necessary in some instances.

Completed qualifications

The number of students completing Level 4 certificates in the broader category Building has been falling from 1,500 for the last six years. 

Qualification completions chart

Source: Ministry of Education

Income and employment prospects


The average annual income for construction workers is estimated to be around $48,400. Inexperienced construction workers are likely to start out on the minimum wage.

Estimated Average Income

Source: MBIE estimates based on Statistics NZ Census and Labour Cost Index

Employment and skill shortages

Construction workers’ employment

HistoricProjected Growth
2006 2013 2023 2028
16,134 17,775 21,250 23,470
  0.7% 3.0% 1.7%

Source: Statistics NZ Census and MBIE projections. Percentages are compound annual growth rates.
*Growth projections are for the category “Construction and Mining Labourers”.

Over the next few years, we expect there will be increasing demand for construction workers in Auckland due to increasing building activity to support the city’s active housing market and large civil construction projects. Work there will eventually slow, but there will still be opportunities in various parts of New Zealand.

Employment chart


Source: Statistics NZ Census and MBIE projections

Outcomes after qualification completion*

OverseasIn further studyReceiving a benefitIn employmentMedian Salary
10% 23% 2% 77% $53,000

Source: Tertiary Education Commission *Three years after completion of L4 Certificate – Building.

Three years after completing a Level 4 Certificate in Building, 75% of graduates were employed and 10% were overseas. The median annual salary at that point was around $53,000. 

Scaffolders are on Immigration New Zealand’s Construction and Infrastructure Skill Shortage List for all regions. This means the government is actively encouraging skilled people in the role to come and work in New Zealand. A full list is available on the Immigration New Zealand website.

Immigration NZ, skill shortage list:

Where to find job vacancies


Construction worker vacancies are advertised through public media such as the Trade Me Jobs and Seek websites.

Trade Me Jobs:

Career path

Construction workers sometimes get apprenticeships and go on to become skilled tradespeople. The Building & Construction Industry Training Organisation BCITO is the ITO that organises the apprenticeship schemes for most building trades. BCITO’s website has ideas on what trades a construction labourer can move into.

BCITO, Career options:

Related occupations

The following occupations are related roles or alternative titles. Some of the roles may require a higher level of skill than entry-level construction workers.

  • Bricklayer
  • Building Insulator
  • Carpenter
  • Concrete Worker
  • Crane Operator
  • Earthmoving Machine Operator
  • Fencer
  • Labourer
  • Miner/Quarry Worker
  • Painter
  • Plumber
  • Roading Construction Worker
  • Scaffolder

Other information


More information on construction workers is available on the Careers New Zealand website.

Careers New Zealand:


The Australian New Zealand Standard Classification of Occupations (ANZSCO) is the official classification of occupations in New Zealand.

The occupation of construction workers has been coded to the following ANZSCO code for the purpose of this report:

821 – Construction and Mining Labourers