Keep your tools safe

A tradies tools are their most valuable possession
As a tradie, your tools are your most valuable possession – but they’re also a top target for thieves. Tool theft is on the rise in New Zealand, as a handful of our MPTT trainees have discovered. But, there are things you can do to protect your kit. Read on to find out some simple ways to keep your tools safe.

MPTT electrical trainee Vaine Wolfgramme learned first-hand why tradie’s insurance is so important when her tools were burgled from her sister’s house earlier this year.

“It was my Makita drill — an impact and a hammer and they were worth about $800. It was brand new. I’d only just got it. I hadn’t even had time to write my name on them.” 

Stolen along with her tools was Vaine’s Playstation 4 and her work safety gear. 

But luckily, Vaine was wise and had her tools insured before they were nicked. This meant she’s able to replace the tools she lost, without having to cover the full expense herself.

“I’m just waiting for the insurance company to give me the money so I can go and buy some new tools.”

Watch your back

To protect your livelihood, it’s important to get educated on tool theft and what you can do to prevent it. 

Remember, tools that are visible from the street are more likely to be stolen. So, it’s best not to keep tools in the back of your ute or hanging up on the garage wall.

It’s common for thieves to sit, wait, and watch for the perfect window to steal – so keep that in mind when you’re taking tools from one place to another. 

In Vaine’s case, she believes the thieves were watching her drop her tools off at her sister’s house after work, and took the opportunity to break in after she left.

“It was a rush job.”

If you normally leave your tools in your vehicle overnight, NZ Police suggest bringing them into your home each night instead.

If this isn’t an option, lock your tools in a secure box that’s hidden from view, or cover your tools with a blanket or tarpaulin to keep them out of sight.

Get it engraved

Another key way to keep your tools safe is to get your name engraved on them, says Vaine.  

“Some people mark or inscribe their tools — like, write all over them.”

Poster on how to protect your tools

Otherwise police might find a pile of stolen tools down the track, but if they’re not marked as yours, they won’t be able to get them back to you.

For the best chance of having your tools returned, NZ Police recommend engraving tools with your driver’s license number. 

You can find an engraving kit at The Warehouse or Mitre 10 for less than $50

If you don’t have one, you can get it done at a trophy engraving or key cutting store. 

Engraving is best because it can’t be scratched off or removed. But at the very least, be sure to mark your new tools with paint or a permanent marker in a unique and easily identifiable way. 

Make sure you’re covered

Insurance and police registration are failsafe ways to protect your tools.

Vaine Wolfgramme
Thanks to insurance, Vaine Wolfgramme will soon get her stolen tools replaced.

Fortunately for Vaine, her tools were insured when they were stolen so it was easy to replace them. To process her insurance claim, she had to provide the police report and the receipt for the stolen tools.

“I would say register your tools, because if you’ve done that and your tools get stolen, then you can probably get them back if the cops find them.” 

You can register your tool serial numbers online through the NZ Police SNAP website

It’s also a good idea to take photos of your receipts, in case the print on them fades. Make sure you store copies of the photos somewhere they’ll be easy to find later.

Tradies can also use security apps like Tool Protect. The app stores information about your tools and makes it easy to file police and insurance reports for stolen tools from your phone.

Vaine’s advice for trades students is to make sure you’re insured as you advance in your career, because of how expensive tools can be to replace.

“Once I get a Fluke Multifunction Tester, that’ll cost around $2000 on its own.”


Tool tips for tradies

Your tools are crucial to your trades career, so do what you can to keep them safe. Tool theft is common, but there are things you can do to avoid it. Here are some reminders: 

  • Engrave your tools with your name or licence number.
  • Get your tools insured. 
  • Register tool serial numbers with NZ Police.
  • Store tools in secure places out of sight. 
  • Be vigilant when moving your tools from place to place.

Female builder brings something new to the team

West Aucklander Brenna Bishop grew up helping her dad with building projects, but having never known a female builder, she wasn’t sure she could make it in the trade herself. Now a valued apprentice at Macreadie Builders, Brenna’s discovered she’s far from the only woman in construction. In fact, she’s found loads of support both on and off the building site.

When Brenna Bishop left school, she knew she wanted to do hands-on work. But she was initially hesitant to enter the trades industry. 

It wasn’t until she talked to her dad – a chippy himself – that she realised there was no reason she couldn’t become a builder. 

“When I started looking around at the trades, I couldn’t see any women promoting it. I don’t think I’d ever met another chick who’d done building. So I thought, ‘nah I can’t do that because I’m female’. 

“But my dad told me to give it a go. And then it was reassuring when I went to Unitec and there were actually other girls in my class. That was kinda nice.”

Now that she’s working in the industry, the 22-year-old has discovered a whole network of women builders who are keen to help each other out.

“There are a lot of online groups to support women who are struggling or having second thoughts about becoming builders. And there are a lot of people posting on those groups asking if anyone needs help, or giving their perspective on things. That’s nice to have a group to back you up.”

Brenna’s boss Joel Macreadie, owner of Macreadie Builders, says she’s quickly growing in her ability on the building site. 

“She’s got a good thirst for knowledge. She obviously loves building, and she’s really building her knowledge-base quickly. She asks a lot of questions, which you have to do when you’re an apprentice.”


Adding to the team

Brenna says that although some contractors who come to the building site treat her a bit differently to her male colleagues, she’s accepted and supported by her boss and workmates.

Brenna was the first woman tradie Joel has hired, but he’s since taken on another into his team of six. 

“I was keen to get some women into our workforce to bring a different element to everything,” says Joel. “

Having a mix of men and women is popular with clients, he says. 

“I think having women on the team makes a company feel a bit more trustworthy. Clients have quite often said: ‘It’s great to see you hiring women’. I’ve had that comment quite a few times.”

“What we’ve found is our clients quite like seeing women on site. It also settles the guys down a bit with things like language, and it just encourages the good practice that you want within your company.”


A different approach

Brenna, who is part Samoan, says she often approaches tasks differently to the men on site. 

“To be honest, sometimes I bring a completely different perspective to the guys, in terms of how we’ll lift something or how to work something out. Also, I’m quite particular about the finishing of things and I think a lot of women are like that as well.”

Joel has also noticed his female employees tend to work more carefully and produce high-quality results.

“Brenna’s got a good eye for detail and she’s a good worker. In general, a guy’s mentality can be a bit ‘smash it up’ and get the job done, whereas the women tend to be a bit more meticulous. So, Brenna definitely brings a bit more of that to the table, and thinking things through more thoroughly,” he says.

Physical strength is an advantage in the building trade, and Brenna says being on the smaller side can mean you need to improvise.

“There are things we lift that are heavier than me. But I think of other ways around it. So, I’ll find a way to prop or lever it up, instead of breaking my back trying to lift something I can’t.” 

But at the same time, it’s worth remembering that strength isn’t necessarily about gender – there are smaller men who also struggle with lifting things, she says. 

“I think it comes down to working on your weaknesses, but also embracing your strengths. Just embracing who you are, ‘cos everyone’s going to be slightly different.”

Making it happen

Towards the end of her pre-trades course at Unitec in 2018, Brenna’s MPTT navigator set up a few introductions to employers, who focused on commercial building. Not one to sit on the sidelines, Brenna also did her own job search, which helped her find her ideal apprenticeship.

“In my head I’d always wanted to work for a company that does residential work. My dad’s got his own company and he encouraged me to find something local and with a small group of people. 

“I ended up going on Facebook and posting to see if my family and friends knew of anyone looking for an apprentice. And then a family friend put my name forward because my now-employer was working at their house.”

Soon after, Brenna was at her friend’s house meeting her future boss.

“The company said they’d give me a trial to see how it goes, and I’ve never left since then. This is my third year with the company. 

“They were supportive from the get-go, so I felt pretty lucky. He’s a cool boss. His wife is quite involved too and she’s great to have as a support person.”

The team often have two or three jobs on the go at once, which they tackle in pairs.

“I feel like I’ve progressed forward a lot because I’ve done an awful lot of different things. I’ve had a bit of a taster of everything.” 


Looking to the future

Brenna is now well on her way to getting qualified, with her apprenticeship due to finish next year. 

Although she loves being on the tools, she has a five- to 10-year plan to move into a leadership role and eventually start her own business. 

“My dad has said I can take over his company and he kind of suggested it’d be kind of cool to do an all-female building and construction company. So I might do that. It’s not about trying to get rid of all the guys, but it would be something different.”

Brenna found her willingness to work hard and put her all into the job has served her well in the workplace.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    

“I’m not competitive, but I’m determined to prove myself in everything I do. So, I might struggle with something but I’ll push to make it work. 

“Even if it’s just digging a hole and it sucks and it’s muddy, I’ll always try to do my best.”

With a great team and work she loves, Brenna is grateful for the opportunities her MPTT scholarship has opened up for her.

“I like the atmosphere on the building site. I’m pretty lucky that the people I work with make it a really enjoyable place. And seeing the progress of each job, and the clients being so happy, is really awesome.”

More and more wahine are joining the trades industry and learning skills that are in high demand. Want to join them? Find out more about being a woman in the trades, and check out these stories of other Māori and Pasifika women in the industry:

  • Young mum Toni Rhind, who’ll be ‘fighting off job offers’ once she’s qualified, according to her boss.
  • Flora Rivers, who was the first woman on her construction team and loves getting her hands dirty with practical work.
  • Automotive apprentice Elaine Pereira, who found attitude and work ethic are way more important than physical strength.