Scaffolders put up and take down scaffolding for builders, painters and renovators, and erect temporary seating.
Trainee scaffolders usually earn
$16-$18 per hour
Scaffolders with qualifications usually earn
$20-$35 per hour
Source: Scaffolding, Access and Rigging Association of New Zealand (SARNZ), 2016.
Current job prospects
Pay for scaffolders varies depending on experience, qualifications and location – pay in Auckland and Christchurch may be higher than in the rest of the country.
- Trainee scaffolders usually start on minimum wage or a little more.
- Scaffolders with initial scaffolding qualifications usually earn $20 to $25 an hour.
- Those with further scaffolding qualifications can earn $25 to $35 an hour.
- Scaffolders working as supervisors or foremen can earn $30 an hour or more, which is usually paid as an annual salary.
Source: Scaffolding, Access and Rigging Association of New Zealand (SARNZ), 2016.
- PAYE.net.nz website – use this calculator to convert pay and salary information
- Employment New Zealand website - information about minimum wage rates
(This information is a guide only. Find out more about the figures and diagrams in our job information)
What you will do
Scaffolders may do some or all of the following:
- talk with clients and discuss their needs and requirements
- calculate scaffold loadings and decide what scaffolding platform to build
- check worksites for hazards
- unload scaffolding from trucks
- fit steel tubes and support braces together to form the scaffolding framework
- lay wooden boards (sole plates) on the ground to spread the weight of the scaffolding
- fasten ladders and guard rails to scaffolding
- take down scaffolding and load it onto trucks
- check and maintain scaffolding equipment
- regularly inspect erected scaffolding for safety.
Skills and knowledge
Scaffolders need to have knowledge of:
- how to calculate loads and forces
- how to erect and disassemble scaffolding
- how to use and care for scaffolding equipment
- building regulations
- workplace and construction site safety regulations
- how to identify potential hazards
- how to interpret building plans and diagrams.
- usually work 40-hour weeks, but may be required to work longer hours and on weekends
- often work outside on buildings, at concert and sports venues, boats, bridges and oil rigs
- work at heights, sometimes in dangerous conditions
- travel locally to sites, and may travel out of town for some large jobs.
What's the job really like?
A career in scaffolding – 6.46 mins. (Video courtesy of Just the Job)
Clinton: Brant’s headed to Northland Scaffolding, in Whangarei. The company’s four crews provide a service from Warkworth to the far north. Chris Douglas is the managing director.
Chris: [handing Brant a shirt] It’s a nice orange shirt.
Brant: Geez, thanks mate!
Chris: Scaffolding as an industry is an interesting job. You’re always on the move. You’re going to different sites, different areas of the country, every day. You’re in the fresh air, you’re enjoying the environment around you. You’re generally working with a good bunch of people in the construction industry.
Brant, when you normally start in the scaffolding industry, one of your first tasks you’d be expected to do would be work in a yard situation, where you’re stacking scaffold, you’re servicing scaffold clips, you’re painting scaffolding equipment – that’s learning about the componentry of the systems of scaffolding that you would use.
Clinton: These are the components for a traditional system – tube and coupler. It’s reliable, and trusted.
Chris: So here’s the basic in scaffolding equipment, tube and coupler scaffolding, which involves just your couplers, being swivel or fixed, and your galvanised tube.
Clinton: This is a more recent German frame system, which is very quick to put up.
Chris: Simple systems, like putting handrails together, fast-attach clips, hit it with a hammer, and you’re off onto the next one.
Clinton: This ring-clamp system is fast to put together too.
Chris: The system simply slots in, pin goes in, hit with a hammer and your connection’s together.
Clinton: First lesson – erecting a metre-wide tower, using both old and new systems.
[Brant starts assembling the scaffold]
Chris: There are two sizes on there, so grab the biggest one, and do our nut up tight.
You start at the bottom level, and everybody works their way up. Don’t expect to be jumping up on top of the scaffold, and building the scaffold, in the first week.
Ok – we’re going to join these two tubes together with a horizontal tube. Do it up nice and tight, push it down. We want to do that bolt up now, and do up our doubles. And that’s your finished product!
Now we’re going to show you an example of the slightly more modern system. If you pick up one of those, we’re going to put it in as we did last time with our tube, we’ll grab one of our transoms, and locate it on the inside. It goes into the slot, and we grab our hammer, and we give it just a quick tap.
It’s a good physical job. It keeps you in great shape. It’s like a workout – every day the boys come to work, it’s like a workout. They’re lifting steel products all day every day, so there’s a lot of them in pretty good shape.
Clinton: So, time to look at some jobs. First to a supermarket site where scaffolding’s being built right along the new front of the building.
Chris: It’s quick, and very versatile. It’s easy to put up, it’s a straight face, big long face. Nice safe systems, internal access, hatchways – you haven’t got the old ladder on the outside of the scaffold, having to try and crawl back in.
Clinton: This construction site in Whangarei is a new road bridge. Alongside there’s a temporary footbridge, constructed entirely with scaffolding.
Chris: It’s created a pedestrian access, with nice good grip, from the deck, an access way while they’re building the bridge. And over here we’ve got a hanging scaffold off the side of a bridge. For obvious purposes we can’t build the scaffold in the sediment – the risk of floods etc, so we’ve created a series of structures across the bridge to hang the scaffold down the side of it.
Clinton: Equipment’s being loaded for a house that’s to be re-roofed. In charge of the team is Darren Baillie.
Chris: Darren, I’d like to introduce you to Brant.
Clinton: Brant is heading off to build the scaffold that will surround the house.
Darren: The first thing we’re going to do, is we’re going to walk around the house. We’ll have a look at where the scaffold’s going to be built. Basically, what we’re going to be looking for is hazards that we might come across today. Things like the hose on the ground there, we’ve got power lines up here.
Clinton: The gear needed is walked on to the site, and the job can begin.
Chris: You’ve got three or four guys on site. You’re there to help each other. It certainly balances. You create good relationships because you’re working closely – from the man on the ground who’s taking the gear off the truck, handing it to the people who are building – it’s a link. If one person doesn’t connect in that link, then the whole process falls apart.
Maea: Training for our scaffolding trainees is more than just learning about nuts and bolts. It’s from myself as the area business manager, it’s supporting our trainees, in all facets of their training so that at the end of the day they’ll complete their training on time, and come out absolutely confident and able to do their job.
Clinton: Kurt Douglas is an apprentice with Northland Scaffolding, and is enjoying the job.
Brant: What do you like about it?
Kurt: The physical side of the work. You’re always lifting and sweating, man, you’re always sweating! Outside every day, always doing something different.
Clinton: When working at height, safety is paramount. Whenever there’s a vulnerable situation, a harness needs to be worn.
Brant: What is attached there? [Looking at security harness]
Darren: What you do is, you attach the hook here – it opens like that. What you do is you attach it to something above you. Never attach a lanyard below you.
Brant: Always above?
Darren: Always above.
Chris: There’s neat people in this industry, the construction industry. Generally people that are positive, they’re progressive, they’re building things, and whether you want to follow the field, to come through to become an advanced scaffolder, or whether you want to own your own company, the opportunities are endless in scaffolding.
Well done mate, good effort.
Brant: It’s been pretty good, eh. I had a good experience here. Meeting new people, it’s just been an all-round good experience.
Clinton: There are no entry requirements, but to become qualified, you must do an apprenticeship. Various New Zealand or national certificates in scaffolding are available and The Skills Organisation provides training support.
You need to be fit, like the outdoors, be not afraid of heights, and will train on the job. The big increase in residential and commercial construction in Auckland and Christchurch means job prospects are good.
To become a scaffolder you need to start as a trainee under the supervision of a qualified scaffolder and gain a New Zealand Certificate in Scaffolding. The New Zealand Certificates are available at Levels 3, 4 and 5.
The industry training organisation The Skills Organisation oversees scaffolding training.
- The Skills Organisation website - industry training information on scaffolding qualifications
- Scaffolding, Access and Rigging New Zealand website - information about scaffolding training
There are no specific secondary education requirements to become a scaffolder. However, NCEA Level 2 in maths and English is useful.
Year 11 and 12 students can learn more about the construction industry and gain relevant skills by doing a National Certificate in Building, Construction and Allied Trades (Levels 1 and 2) through the BConstructive programme.
For Year 11 to 13 students, the Gateway programme is a good way to gain industry experience.
- BConstructive website - information on the BConstructive programme
- Tertiary Education Commission website - information on the Gateway programme
Scaffolders need to be:
- safety-conscious, careful and responsible
- practical and accurate, with an eye for detail
- good problem-solvers
- able to follow instructions
- able to work well in a team
- good at communicating
A good scaffolder has to be able to interpret the customer's needs, design the scaffold and build it efficiently and safely.
CEO, Scaffolding, Access and Rigging New Zealand
Useful experience for scaffolders includes building construction work and any jobs involving physical labour and teamwork.
Scaffolders need to be fit and strong as they have to carry scaffolding parts which often weigh over 20 kilograms each. They need to be agile with good balance and hand-eye co-ordination, and able to work at heights.
Find out more about training
- The Skills Organisation
- 0508 754 557 - www.skills.org.nz
- Scaffolding, Access and Rigging Association of NZ (SARNZ)
- (04) 589 0253 - firstname.lastname@example.org - sarnz.org.nz
What are the chances of getting a job?
Changing laws and construction boom increase demand for scaffolders
Opportunities for scaffolders are good due to:
- the 2016 Health and Safety at Work Act, which means that most multi-floor building work is likely to need scaffolding to ensure workers' safety
- high turnover of new trainee scaffolders because of the very demanding physical work
- a construction boom that is predicted to last until 2021, meaning more building work
- the extra 22,000 houses that are needed over the next 10 years in Auckland
- building work needed to upgrade leaky homes and earthquake-prone buildings
- the Christchurch rebuild, which is predicted to extend until at least the end of 2017.
As a result, scaffolder appears on Immigration New Zealand's immediate and Canterbury skill shortage lists. This means the Government is actively encouraging skilled scaffolders from overseas to work in New Zealand.
Long-term outlook best for better-qualified scaffolders who are able to travel for work
Like many building jobs, this role can be affected by economic conditions. A downturn in the economy can lower demand for scaffolders, especially those with fewer qualifications.
You can increase your chances of having permanent work by:
- doing further training and completing the New Zealand Certificate in Scaffolding (Level 5)
- being prepared to travel to heavy industry sites such as Marsden Point or Taranaki for work during their maintenance sessions, when demand for temporary scaffolders is high
- having a heavy vehicle licence.
Need for scaffolders in oil and gas industry
Scaffolders are also needed for work on power stations and offshore oil and gas platforms, such as Marsden Point and Taranaki's Maui gas field.
Scaffolders mainly work for private companies
Most scaffolders work for private scaffolding companies. These range from businesses with just a few workers to nationwide companies that employ hundreds of staff.
- BRANZ and Pacifecon, 'National Construction Pipeline Report 4', July 2016, (www.branz.co.nz).
- Burke, G, chief executive officer, Scaffolding, Access & Rigging New Zealand, Careers New Zealand interview, May 2016.
- Immigration New Zealand, 'Canterbury Skill Shortage List', accessed May 2016, (www.immigration.govt.nz).
- Immigration New Zealand, 'Immediate Skill Shortage List', accessed May 2016, (www.immigration.govt.nz).
- Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, '2006-2014 Occupation Data' (prepared for Careers New Zealand), 2015.
Progression and specialisations
Scaffolders usually start in a general scaffolding role and later move into a supervisory role. They may progress to start their own business, or move into construction management.
Those with the New Zealand Certificate in Scaffolding (Level 5) can move into civil engineering work.
Last updated 7 June 2017