Sosaia Kaloni was drawn to construction to give his family better financial support. Now, at 24 years old, Sosaia has a great job with a leading company and is looking forward to becoming a qualified carpenter. He says OCA and MPTT Navigators have been critical to his success. His little brother would agree.
The Kaloni family is from the village of Kolovai in Tonga. Sosaia and his brother grew up in Otara, South Auckland. When his parents were too sick to work, he left school to start earning. Unfortunately, he found himself doing factory and warehouse work where the money was just never enough. When he saw his little brother was going to leave school to do the same thing, he knew it was time to make a smart choice. Together, they embarked on training for construction with an MPTT scholarship at Oceania Careers Academy – OCA.
Oceania Career Academy (OCA) has been providing Pasifika and South Auckland youth with pathways into the building industry since 2015. OCA has the ultimate goal of helping Pasifika families thrive financially, and this is what’s happened for Sosaia, his brother and the Kaloni whānau.
“As soon as I started looking at the trades, I saw so much opportunity. And it was easy — not really easy, but enjoyable. I wish I had done it straight after school,” says Sosaia.
High grit required
“I was working while I did my training, so it was hard to fit in the study. Sometimes I needed to leave the class a bit early to get to work, but I would talk through it with the tutors. They were supportive as long as I did my work before I had to go. They’re pretty helpful like that.”
When Covid struck, a little extra support was especially important. Sosaia said MPTT and the OCA tutors made all the difference.
“During the lockdown, we lost our jobs. And it was hard trying to look for work at that time. So, I let them know about it, and they helped a lot. They’d check in on how we were at home, and they even dropped off some shopping for us.
“MPTT Navigators and OCA Tutors make everything easier. They care about you in class but also outside of class. They keep in touch.
“Once we began at our new job, we were supplied with all the tools we needed to get going through OCA, like basic hand tools, belts, and some power tools like nail guns.”
During his training, Sosaia found his passion for carpentry.
“I just enjoy being so hands-on, and it also keeps your mind going. I love calculating the cut, cutting it and then putting it all together. There’s always something new, and there are always fresh challenges.”
Learning leads to earning
McConnell Dowell was pleased to give Sosaia and his brother a shot to join their team and learn their trade.
“I’m just starting with McConnell. They’re so easy to work with. Ever since we started, they’ve made our job easier. Everyone here is so onto it. It’s great to be around because you’ve just got to be on your toes.”
Sosaia will soon be through his trial period and onto the next step of starting his apprenticeship so that he can become a qualified carpenter.
“The best thing about doing my apprenticeship will just be the knowledge. It will make the stuff I do easier. Although being qualified comes with more responsibility, I’m ready for the challenge.”
The whānau is freed from worries
Sosaia has certainly proven he’s ready to step up. He’s rightly proud and is enjoying the rewards of his new career as a carpenter.
“I found something stable compared to what I used to have. I’m able to fully provide for my family now. Mum and Dad don’t have to worry about anything.”
He’d like to stay with McConnell Dowell for a long time. But he also knows that having his qualification gives him lots of options.
“Maybe I could set up my own business with my brother one day.”
For now, Sosaia is just grateful for the decision he made to get into the trades, the support he received and the future he’s building for himself. He says anyone thinking about the trades should make the most of the opportunity and support from MPTT and OCA.
“You’ve just got to put yourself all in – 100%. And everything you put in will be paid back to you.”