Tikanga and strong relationships are the foundation for Māori and Pasifika success at NZMA

NZMA is unlocking new futures for Māori and Pasifika by doing things differently. 

The team at NZMA has put tikanga Māori at the foundation of its relationships with tauira, whānau and the community. As a result, they’re breaking down barriers for a whole range of learners. 

Vau Atonio, Campus Manager, says it’s an approach that is woven into every part of NZMA’s programme. He’s come through roles that include teaching, stakeholder engagement, regional sales manager, head of faculty and now campus manager, allowing him to see how each layer of the organisation works with the rest. 

Building a place for people to thrive

“It starts on the first day at orientation. It’s all about making sure that when tauira walk through the door, the first thing they see is a big smile.

“I truly believe that if cultural inclusivity is embedded from the outset, outcomes will follow, and students will flourish.” 

An example of this is the learning environment created when NZMA partnered with Hoani Waititi Marae to establish NZMA’s Trades West Campus. It means culture always has a visible presence.

“We run classes every week for each cohort where they learn about the language and customs. Our students enjoy the pōwhiri. For many, it brings comfort from the get-go because they see what they’re used to at home reflected in their learning space. 

I tell my students: ‘You need to feel like this is your home. Because if you feel safe, you’ll be better able to learn and grow.” 

He tangata

“It’s about creating an environment that is full of the things our people are good at, so it’s supportive of learning and growth,” says Vau.

“We embrace waiata and karakia, and it’s a family orientated thing. We want to ensure our students are proud of their culture.

We prepare them to speak about themselves articulately, express what they need and be confident to talk about their skills.” 

NZMA’s philosophy has always been about building genuine relationships with students, treating everyone with respect, and understanding that they are all individuals with different dreams, pressures and needs. It creates an inclusive environment for a diverse group of learners. 

“Some learners that come through that just don’t fit the school mould. We also have a broad range of ages.”

“Tikanga gives us the platform to support and rebuild our learners who have had a negative schooling experience or may have low self-esteem.” 

“At all three of NZMAs Trades campuses, we have a regular lunch where everyone just puts down their tools and breaks bread together. This is about getting to know each other and sharing each other’s stories.”

NZMA has three campuses specialising in trades.

Drop into a campus near you, say hi and see why NZMA could be the place for you.

NZMA Trades Centre

807 Great South Road, Mount Wellington, Auckland 1060, 
Phone: 09 217 0501

  • Painting & Plastering
  • Construction
NZMA Trades West

Parrs Park, 443 West Coast Road, Oratia, Glen Eden, Auckland 0602, 
Phone: 09 217 0501

  • Construction
  • Plumbing & Gasfitting
  • Electrical Engineering
NZMA Trades South

15c Vestey Drive Auckland, Mt Wellington, Mount Wellington, Auckland 1060
Phone: 09 217 0501

  • Plumbing & Gasfitting
  • Electrical Engineering

What you can see shows what you can be

Vau says NZMA knows students need to be able to recognise themselves in the staff and tutors so they can see what’s possible. This is especially so for supporting women into the trades

Jasmine, Karley and Toa are three Construction Tutors who are welcoming a new generation of wāhine into their classrooms at NZMA.

“When we have so many women as tutors, it means trainees have relatable and inspiring role models so they can see, ‘Hey, I can do that too,” says Vau. 

Jasmine, a construction tutor, says NZMA trades training has a great atmosphere for women and the whole industry is less male-dominated than in the past. Toa and Karley say they see women flourish at their campus and say their determination shines through. 

“They’re less likely to just fall into it as a pathway. Instead, it’s a conscious choice.” 

You can read more about the women breaking down stereotypes here.

Practical support and skills are a focus 

Vau says NZMA sets Māori and Pasifika up for both immediate and long-term success.

“Being amazing at what you do is not enough; you also need to be reliable. This means sorting transport and making sure you’ve got the right gear. 

“Our trainees are ready to work hard. We want to equip them with self-belief as well, so they have the persistence to complete their apprenticeships.

“I tell them that once you’re qualified, you become the decision-maker. You become the person who gets to make the decisions that change people’s lives and also to make decisions that make your life a better place.” 

“We have the opportunity to change lives, and I’m really grateful for that.”

Shifting the Dial

Vau recently contributed NZMA’s insights on Māori and Pasifika learners to a report, ‘Shifting the Dial: The Economic and Societal Impact of Removing Barriers for Underserved Learners in Aotearoa (2022).   

Vau explains, “Many of our students feel an inherent responsibility to their families to make the most of every opportunity and to pave the way for the next generation.  

“They are often the first to pursue post-secondary education in their families. It can be easy for them to feel alone and unsure of themselves in these unfamiliar waters. 

“Our students are striving for generational change, not only in their educational capabilities but also for their families’ financial situation.” 

With every graduate, NZMA is helping another new tradie create that future. 

Women are working it in the trades

Female trades trainees at NZMA
Wāhine Māori and Pasifika are breaking down stereotypes and building futures.

At NZMA, Dalice, Shalei, Mereana and Ngatamaine are women who are stepping up in their steelcaps to learn a trade. They’re backed by a supportive learning environment, inspired by female tutors and passionate about developing their skills. They told us about their experience so far and offered encouragement to other women thinking about the trades.  

According to these wāhine, change is coming to the old stereotype that trades are male-dominated.  

When Dalice Kareko wondered about learning a trade, one of her first questions to NZMA was whether other women were studying. She was surprised to find out that more than half the class was female. She’s also realised that the work is so varied that it’s easier to hold your own than expected.

“It’s cool to be able to read a plan literally off the wall of the building and interpret it into a real-life project.”

Malice Kareko is studying Level 3 Construction at NZMA
Dalice Kareko is studying Level 3 Construction at NZMA with the help of a scholarship from
Māori and Pasifika Trades Training.

It’s a profession with potential

Dalice decided to learn construction to set herself up with a profession and options. She said she looked ahead and realised she wanted more from life than turning up for a shift. In particular, she wanted a skill that she could turn into a career.

“I just want to step out beyond the usual jobs and office work to do something outdoorsy.”  

Tutor Jasmine Lolo wishes more young women knew how many options there are. “The trades are about so much more than building… you can take almost any path,” she said. Jasmine gave the example of health and safety specialists or site managers – these roles are far different to the ‘hammer and nail’ people might think of.

And the earning potential is attractive too. Mereana Panui saw how much builders were earning and decided that it shouldn’t just be for the boys. 

“It looked pretty fun! Right now, I’m just enjoying it, but it’s also about the end game: It’s a good career.”

Gaining skills is satisfying

The wāhine we spoke to all talked about how rewarding it is to learn how to use tools and create things. 

Ngatamaine Tipukoroa is studying electrical at NZMA, and it suits her because she likes to work with her hands. “I like to challenge myself, and the challenge is good. Not many people back home in the Islands have the skills to work in electrical, so what I’m learning will mean I can really help. Together we’ll be able to build homes.”

Shalei Seumanutafa gets a kick knowing she can hold her own when it comes to using tools and looks forward to having something to show for a day’s work. 

“I love the idea of actually being able to see your work take shape in front of you. I know people in construction who can point out huge apartments and buildings and say, ‘Yeah, I worked on that.’  And I will be able to say that as well! 

Shalei is excited about starting her apprenticeship because she knows that it will build her skills and satisfaction further.

“I want to move up. And I just like learning.

“An apprenticeship gives you the chance to work right alongside more experienced workers, get discipline and have the interest of different sites to go to.”

And then there’s the satisfaction of building things rather than buying them. I can build things for my chickens or guinea pigs and fix stuff around the house. And I get the reward of knowing I did that,” said Shalei.

Shalei is another MPTT scholarship recipient preparing for a career in construction at NZMA Trades.

Putting your passion first

Since starting at NZMA, Shalei knows she’s exactly where she wants to be. At high school, she enjoyed building but the classes were full of boys. She ended up switching to sewing. However, after working in an office, she knew her heart was in the trades. Having a bit of life experience made it easier to step into something new.

“I know who I am now, and I feel more comfortable because I know this is what I really want to do.” She advises others to be true to themselves as well. 

“I’ve been feeling like I wanted to do trades since school, and now I’m here, and it’s way cooler. So, it’s worth thinking about what makes you happy. Do what you want to do, and not just what others think you should be doing. Follow your gut!”

There’s a sense of support

It’s clear that NZMA has created an environment where women can thrive in their training. 

Mereana said,  “I wasn’t expecting lots of females to be in my class, but there are heaps. And there are a lot of age groups too.

“We’re working in smaller groups to build our cabins, and I’m the team leader. So, it’s soft skills that we’re building too.”

“I was worried people might treat me differently as a female. I was ready to have to work extra hard to prove myself. But it wasn’t really like that. The tutors are all good and super supportive.” 

Dalice said having female tutors makes a big difference. “They get it. And they show that there are real prospects and possibilities.”

It won’t be long before Dalice, Shalei, Mereana and Ngatamaine are out working and inspiring others to do the same. Ngatamaine is already looking forward to a prestigious apprenticeship with Hawkins. She knows getting qualified will set her up for long term success, and she hopes more females will follow. 

“As women, we’re proving to everyone that we can make it. So don’t be afraid to put your name down and step up for trades. Follow your heart and keep going.”

Mereana Panui, Construction trainee and MPTT scholarship recipient currently doing her pre-trades at NZMA.

Crossing the finish line:
Get qualified on time

Finishing your apprenticeship means you can stop studying and start enjoying being a qualified tradie – including earning more money and having more job opportunities.

But getting qualified is more of a marathon than a sprint. From your pre-trades course to the end of your apprenticeship you’ll be training for several years, so it’s important to stay motivated along the way.

The exact time it takes depends on your trade, and whether you already have some of the skills you need (like if you’ve worked as a hammerhand). But no matter what your situation, the sooner you get certified, the sooner you can enjoy the benefits. Plus, if you wait too long without progressing, you might need to pay another apprenticeship fee.

Remember, you’re never alone in your training journey – there’s heaps of support to help you get your qualification. So read on for how to ensure you complete your apprenticeship in good time, and what to do when problems come up.

Why get qualified?

It takes work to get your qualification, so it’s important to remember why you’re doing it.

Jodi Franklin from MITO says there are a lot of benefits to getting qualified besides not having to study anymore.

“A lot of things happen when you get qualified. It’s not just a certificate; generally you’re rewarded in the workplace with a pay increase. And the world’s your oyster in terms of being able to take your qualification all over the world. If you want to go and live somewhere else for a change of scenery, you can take your qualification with you.”

On the other hand, if you don’t get qualified, you’ll limit your opportunities and how much you can earn, says Jodi.

“It doesn’t matter how close you get to completing your qualification. Even if you finish 99%, it’s not recognised until you complete it.”

So if you want more money and more mana on the job, and the freedom to take your skills overseas or start your own business, get your certification sorted as soon as you can.

Take away: You need to get qualified to get the benefits from your training, like more money and more job opportunities.
Good timing

When you sign on for an apprenticeship, your training provider (called an Industry Training Organisation, or ITO) will let you know how long it’ll ideally take you to complete your qualification. Depending on your trade, this is usually between 2 years and 4 ½ years of being an apprentice.

But it’s important to know that apprenticeships aren’t just about the hours you spend on site. Instead, you need to show the skills you’ve developed, says Doug Leef from BCITO.

“It’s all about competency. We all learn differently and, as such, progression from person to person differs. A lot of this comes down to the relationships forged on the job site and the quality of training and supervision given to trainees.”

Your employer is responsible for making sure you get the practical training you need during your apprenticeship, says Doug.

“That onus falls on the employer. It’s their responsibility to get trainees qualified. When they sign the apprentice up, we make the employer aware of the scope of work required.”

Take away: Apprentices need to show they have the right practical skills. Your boss is responsible for making sure you learn all the skills you need on the job, but you can help move things along quickly. Have a chat to your boss or ITO training advisor about the skills you need to learn, and make a plan for what you want to get signed off at your next meeting with your training advisor.

Getting qualified is more of a marathon than a sprint.

In theory

But it’s not enough to just show up to work and do what your employer says. As an apprentice, you need to understand why you’re doing what you’re doing. That’s where theory or book work comes in.

“It can be a bit daunting to have all this theory to learn,” says Doug. “But you’ve got to understand the underpinning theory and the reasons behind why you’re doing what you’re doing. It’s not just throwing houses up; it’s about compliance, accountability and administration.”

The biggest challenge for most apprentices is finding time for their theory work on top of working full-time. Depending on your trade and schedule, you might do your theory work during a block course (where you go into a classroom with other trainees on certain days), a night class after working hours, or at home in your spare time.

“It’s about managing your hours,” says Aimee Hutcheson from Skills. “Most apprentices are flat tack as soon as they enter the industry, so they need to work with their employer to fit in time for their theory work.”

To make sure your theory work doesn’t build up and get overwhelming, make time to work on it regularly, says Jodi.

“The most successful apprentices are the ones who get into a routine. It might help to go along to a night class. Otherwise, you need to find that one night where you’re not playing rugby or busy with other commitments. Even just a couple of hours a week makes a big difference. Doing a little bit and often is the key to success.”

Take away: Make time every week to do a bit of your theory work, so you don’t fall behind. When you regularly do work towards your qualification, you know you’re building your skills and getting closer to being a skilled tradie. And remember, you don’t have to do it alone – there’s heaps of support available, so if you need help or have a question, talk to your boss or training advisor.
Needing help – it’s normal

Many trainees feel whakamā (shy or embarrassed) when asking for help. But the truth is, everyone needs help at some point in their training.

Remember, it’s normal to need to ask questions sometimes, and no-one expects you to know everything.

“We’re all embarrassed to ask for help from time to time,” says Doug. “But you need to put your hand up early. Don’t be afraid to ask for help if you need it.”

One reason you might need support is if you don’t understand something your tutor says in class. It’s really important to speak up, because no question is a dumb question. Chances are, other students are wondering about the same thing.

“We do have people who have had to resit exams because of the spiral effect of being too shy to ask questions in class,” says Aimee. “Then they’re resitting because they’ve never had the relationship with their tutor to not be whakamā to ask questions and ask for help.”

Having learning differences, like dyslexia, can also mean you need to ask for help. If you’re not sure if that applies to you, don’t worry. Your ITO will do a quick test to see if you’d benefit from help with literacy or numeracy – and there’s plenty of support available.

“You can talk to your employer or tutor if you need help, or your training advisor (from your ITO) is just a phone call away if you have any questions or concerns,” says Aimee.

“You’ve got to build that confidence to be able to ask questions and ask for help if you’re struggling. At the end of the day, we all want you to get through and get qualified, and to feel like you’re achieving as well – to understand what you’re learning, not just check a box.”

Take away: Everyone needs help sometimes, so make sure you speak up if you don’t understand something or are finding anything difficult.
Work worries

At some point during your apprenticeship, you might need to change jobs.

“Some trainees want to change employers because they’re travelling too far for work, or there’s not enough work, or maybe they’re not getting on with people on site,” says Doug. “It’s not the trainee or the employer’s fault – it’s just life.”

It’s okay to change jobs if you need to, but remember that an apprenticeship is an agreement between three parties: you, your employer and your apprenticeship provider. So when you leave your employer, you break the apprenticeship contract and you’ll need to sign another one with your next employer.

Before you change jobs, make sure your new boss is supportive of you doing an apprenticeship, says Jodi.

“You don’t have to stick it out in an employment situation that’s not right for you. And it’s the same if apprentices are laid off because their employer doesn’t have enough work for them or they want experience in other parts of the industry.

“You can change jobs and continue your apprenticeship, if you have the support of your new employer.”

If you’ve already had parts of your apprenticeship signed off and completed, don’t worry. The work you’ve already completed will stay in the system and you can transfer that to your new job.

But remember, changing jobs often takes time, which can delay your progress. For example, your new employer might want you to do a trial for a few months before giving you an apprenticeship. So change jobs if you need to, but don’t do it lightly.

Take away: It’s best to stay with your employer if you can. If you need to change jobs, make sure your new boss wants to give you an apprenticeship.
Need a break?

Sometimes life gets in the way of your learning. If you’re not able to work for a while, then you might be able to take a brief break from your apprenticeship, as long as your boss is on board.

“If you take a short break due to injury, then as long as your employer is aware of it and you’re still employed by the same company, it’s not an issue,” says Doug.

“For example, if you’ve hurt your knee playing rugby and you’re on ACC then we’ll say, ‘This person’s not working; they’re still in their apprenticeship, but their employer and ITO recognise they’re not fit for work’. So we can put your apprenticeship on hold until you can work again.”

But remember, you can’t put your apprenticeship on hold forever. You need to talk to your boss and ITO about why you need a break, and make a plan for when you’ll return.

“Apprenticeships can time out,” says Aimee. “Sometimes you can get an extension, but not by much. If you run out of time, you can be charged a fee because it’s almost like you’re signing up for that year of your apprenticeship again. You can’t just put it on hold indefinitely.”

Take away: If you need a break, talk to your employer and ITO and see if they can support your break from work. Just make sure you don’t leave it too long before you come back to your apprenticeship, because the longer you leave it, the more difficult it is to get back into it – plus you might be charged an extra fee.

Trade secrets: 3 trainees share their stories

They came to the trades from different backgrounds: high school, office work and ambulance driving. But these three tauira (trainees) have one thing in common – a burning ambition to succeed. Find out why Christine, Marvin and Autalavou are learning a trade, what their goals are and how MPTT’s helping them get there.
Christine Swepson

“It’s a lifelong skill that I can take with me forever.”

Age: 30
Samoan, from the village of Palauli, Vailoa.
Studying: New Zealand Certificate in Electrical Engineering Theory (Level 3) at Manukau Institute of Technology

  1. What attracted you to a career in the trades?
  2. I initially wanted to do carpentry because I was interested in architecture and I thought carpentry was close to that. At the time, I was working in sales at Mercury when this Connexis ad about women in trades popped up on our intranet. It showed something about electrical engineering and I thought that looked interesting. Then it was a toss-up between carpentry and electrical, and I think working at Mercury made me go to the electrical side. I resigned to go and study.

    My background is in office work, so I’ve done a lot of non-physical work. But I had no experience at all in electrical work. I was so green when I came into it, and now my hands hurt from stripping cable! So it’s totally new to me.

  3. What are your goals?
  4. I’m going to start looking for an apprenticeship soon, for when I finish my course in November. I don’t want to leave it too late. I want to get my tools and everything first and put my CV into some places around about July. I’m excited about doing practical stuff every day because, right now, it’s a lot of theory.

    I definitely want to get qualified as soon as possible. I’ll stay and work in New Zealand for a bit and maybe possibly go to Australia – that might be my 10-year plan.

  5. How has the MPTT programme helped you?
  6. My MPPT navigator is Travis Fenton. He’s already helped me with doing a one-page CV. Coming from office work, my CV was a lot longer, so he’s helped me shorten it for what a company is looking for. And he’s also helped with my work profile, which goes to Skills and any possible employers. Having that one-on-one mentoring with him is so helpful.

    Marvin Solway

    “There’ll be plenty of work and the pay’s good.”

    Marvin Solway

    Age: 18
    Māori (Ngāpuhi) and Niuean
    Studying: New Zealand Certificate in Plumbing, Gasfitting and Drainlaying (Level 3) at Unitec

    1. What attracted you to a career in the trades?
    2. I’ve always enjoyed doing hands-on things. I don’t really like just sitting down in the office all day, you know? Also, my dad’s a builder. He told me to do a trade but to do something different to him, because if you have three builders in the house and there’s not much work, then no one’s getting any money. I know there’s a shortage of workers in New Zealand. So there’ll be plenty of work and the pay’s good once you get qualified.

    3. What are your goals?

      I want to do an apprenticeship. I’d also like to own my own business one day but I’m not too worried about that now, because that’ll be 10 years away. I’m just taking it slowly, going one step at a time. Having my own business will be good because I can get more Māori and Pasifika into work. I want to help them out. I reckon that would help all of us out a lot.

    4. How has the MPTT programme helped you?
    5. The scholarship has been really helpful and Tu (MPTT Navigator Tu Nu’uali’itia) has been good too. He’s helped me out when I’ve needed it. I’ve always sort of known what direction I’m going in but I know other people might be a bit lost, and having the MPTT navigator there is handy for them. 

      Autalavou Tupuiliu

      “I want to go all the way in this career path – I’m all in.”

      Age: 23
      Samoan, from the village of Faletagaloa Safune, Savai’i
      Studying: New Zealand Certificate in Construction Trade Skills – Carpentry (Level 3) at Unitec

      1. What attracted you to a career in the trades?
      2. I’d already worked in carpentry in Niue for five years before moving to New Zealand earlier this year. The builder I was working with, Julio Atoa Talagi, was a graduate at Unitec who returned to Niue passionate to share his skills with the youth. I want to be exactly like Julio: graduate, get certified, live a little and then start my business.

        So, I ended up applying to Unitec and here I am! Back at home (in Niue), I was building residential and I reckon that, right now while studying, I am learning the theory behind the practical work I’ve done.

        I love building. It’s a passion for me. It’s amazing what you look at after you’ve built a house. I used to work as an ambulance officer in Niue for five years. It was amazing to help people but I felt I was meant to be doing more. So, I did building part time and I found out that the difference between these two professions is that you can never build a human body out of materials or bring someone back when they have passed on but you can always build a house and can always mend your house when it’s broken. That was enough for me to choose carpentry!

      3. What are your goals?
      4. To establish my own building business. I know what I have to do. That is why I really want to do well in building. I’m going to get an apprenticeship as soon as I finish the course and I will be a certified builder. After I become a certified builder, I will get established. I want to go all the way in this career path – I’m all in. 

      5. How has the MPTT programme helped you?
      6. Financially, it has helped my family and I a lot. I am grateful! I am also grateful that I’m able to learn and I don’t have anything to worry about later after I’ve completed my studies. 

        I heard about the scholarship when I got to New Zealand. There was word going around that there’s a scholarship for Māori and Pasifika students, and Tu (MPTT Navigator Tu Nu’uali’itia) explained it to me, so I went ahead and applied for it. I’m grateful for the programme. I reckon it’s a good thing.

        Tu’s always following up with our school work, talking to us every day we come to school and pushing us through. He’s really good – he’s always checking up on us, not only for school but also our stuff at home. I know he keeps us accountable.

Plumbing trainee breaks the mould

By Alan Apted, Stuff/Manukau Courier

In an age where the growing shortage of plumbers has industry leaders sounding the alarm, Hera Eruera burns as bright as the flame from her welding torch.

Eruera, 22, is the only female in a group of 16 apprentices at the Manukau Institute of Technology’s School of Plumbing, Gasfitting and Drainlaying and she is loving it.

“In my mind, plumbing was all about toilets. But I’ve since discovered it’s a lot more than that.”

“I love everything the trade offers, especially the variety.”

“There is gas fitting, the welding, working with sheet metal, working on roofs, drainlaying, working with hot and cold water systems. I have a far better understanding of what’s involved now and I love it.”

The former Māngere College student says it was her tutor and welder with 30 years experience John McDonald who opened her eyes to the world of plumbing and the financial security that qualified plumbers enjoy.


MIT tutor John McDonald with MPTT Plumbing trainee Hera Eruera
Experienced welder and MIT tutor John McDonald has played a pivotal role in building Hera’s confidence, passion and skillset. Photo: Alan Apted

Industry figures show that newly qualified plumbers earn around $50,000 a year. Experienced, certifying plumbers can earn more than $75,000 while experienced self-employed plumbers earn between $80,000 and $100,000 a year or even more.

New Zealand needs around 60,000 tradespeople over the next five years, according to Master Plumbers. It says there is a major shortage of skilled plumbers, especially in Auckland.

“The plumbing workforce needs to grow by nearly 40% by 2021 to keep up with current demand,” Master Plumbers’ chief executive Greg Wallace said. “The current shortage of plumbers means that the career prospects for all plumbers are excellent.”

“Plumbers are in high demand, and there is a certain level of job security which other career paths cannot offer.”

Women like Eruera is what Women in Trades NZ is after. They have had more than 100 women including 77 school girls attended an open day in Auckland recently.

“Women represent less than 3% of tradespeople so there is a big opportunity to increase the workforce through diversifying the traditionally male dominated trades role. However, research and feedback from employers has found that despite the active targeting of women through female specific scholarships and apprentice awards there is limited uptake,” a spokeswoman said.

For Eruera, who is training under a scholarship from Māori and Pasifika Trades Training: Auckland, she will be breaking through other obstacles.


Plumbing trainee Hera Eruera
Plumbing trainee Hera Eruera works on her brazing skills. Photo: Alan Apted


“I will be the first tradie in my family,” she vows.

“I’m a CYFs (Child, Youth and Family) child, given up when I was young – although I was reunited with my mum and dad later in life. We depended on welfare and there was lots of alcohol and drugs.”

She says the things that matter most to her now are financial security and being a good example to her children.

“I also know that once I qualify I’ll never be unemployed,” Eruera said.

“My tutor John McDonald convinced me of this. It’s why I’m here.”

“I see myself owning my own business one day, even becoming a tutor like John. It will be a way of giving back.”

* This article was originally published in the Manukau Courier and on stuff.co.nz

Plumbing: More than just fixing toilets

Want to do hands-on work outdoors and get paid well for it? As Sam Fihaki has found during his training, plumbing is one trade that fits the bill. Find out how the 18-year-old is learning valuable skills that are already proving to be in hot demand.

Sam Fihaki knew plumbing skills were in demand – but he didn’t expect to be peppered with job requests from family members before he’d even finished his training.

“It’s pretty funny when people in my family say, ‘Oh, our toilet is blocked, can you come and fix it? We’ll pay you’. But I’m not a plumber yet. I haven’t even finished my first year!”

Sam is soon to complete his pre-trades course at Unitec and has his sights set on an apprenticeship.

“I want to get some life and work experience under my belt, and I thought learning a trade would be a good way to do that.”

Taking the plunge

Plumbing might have an unglamorous reputation but, as Sam has found, the trade involves a lot more than unblocking clogged pipes.

“People think plumbing’s just working under the kitchen sink or fixing your toilet and stuff. But there’s heaps of different things involved. I really enjoy gasfitting and drainlaying.”

Sam Fihaki, Plumbing trainee
Sam at MPTTs Whanaungatanga Day at the start of his studies

Part of the appeal for Sam is getting to do a variety of hands-on work every day.

“There’s a lot of physical work and you’re outdoors – it’s a cool job. And it’s a different job every day. You’re not stuck in an office. Every day’s a new day – you never know what to expect.”

Issac Liava’a from Skills, which provides plumbing apprenticeships and industry training, says plumbing involves a wide range of skills that are in demand.

“Plumbers don’t spend as much time working with toilets as people think. There’s a lot more to the job.

“Plumbers and gasfitters work with all the systems that supply water and gas or remove waste. So they need to know how pipes and drains work, understand building regulations and know how to identify different sources of water.”

Cash flow

Issac says plumbers have important skills that help ensure all Kiwis have clean drinking water, and that waste is taken away safely from homes.

“Unless it’s scheduled installation or maintenance, plumbing jobs are often urgent. That means plumbers tend to be in demand and can charge a good amount for their skills. Even for scheduled jobs, every task involving water, gas and waste systems is important work that needs to be done right.”

Sam says he was surprised – in a good way – to discover what he could earn once he’s qualified.

“The pay’s really good. There’s a lack of skilled people in the plumbing industry, so they’re in demand.”

“People think because plumbers deal with things like sanitary, it’s not well paid. But that’s one reason why the pay is so high – because not many people want to deal with that kind of stuff.”

Knowledge on tap

Sam, whose mother is from Rewa in Fiji and whose father is from Lau, also in Fiji, qualified for an MPTT scholarship to pay for his fees and provide ongoing coaching.

He is due to finish his pre-trades course in August and is enjoying the projects he’s working on.

“We’ve been doing a lot of practical work lately. At the moment we’re working on a hot water cylinder assignment, which is a pretty big job.”

Being one of the youngest in his course, Sam often asks for advice and insights from more experienced trainees.

“Some of the older guys have done plumbing before. So we ask them questions about what it’s like in the industry and what the work hours and pay are like – just trying to get our head around the fundamentals of the job.”

Piping up

When Sam finishes his course next month, he hopes to move into paid work as soon as possible. To start with, he’s been asking his contacts if they know anyone who’s looking for an employee.

“I know a guy who knows a lot of plumbers, and some of them have asked him if he knows anyone – so he’s recommending me to them.”

Further down the track, with more life and work experience in his toolbelt, Sam would like to join the police force.

Sam Fihaki
Sam working on a community project as part of the MPTT programme

“Ever since I was little I’ve had this thing where I wanted to help out the community. I’ve had a lot of support to do it – like my dad’s brother’s a cop, my best friend’s dad’s a cop, my mum’s best friend’s husband’s a cop. There’s quite a lot of people who’ve said I’d make a good cop.”

But for now, he’s focused on finishing his training and fine-tuning his plumbing skills.

Thinking of training to be a plumber and gasfitter? Find out more here.

What you can learn from Sam
  • Don’t be afraid to ask for advice and help. When Sam meets someone with plumbing experience, he asks them what the industry is like. He’s also asking his contacts to help him find work after his pre-trade course. Remember, most people enjoy giving advice and will be happy to help. Don’t know any tradespeople yet? Start by asking your MPTT navigator whether they know of any jobs that might be right for you.

New NZMA Trades Campus to address skills shortage

NZMA Press Release, 10 April 2018 – Today, the Minister for Building and Construction and Associate Education Minister, The Hon. Jenny Salesa, MP opened the newly refurbished 8000 square metres New Zealand Management Academies (NZMA) Trades Campus, on Great South Road, Mount Wellington, Auckland.

Fitted out with brand new classrooms, workshops, and lab, the purpose-built site will be a hub for students wanting to learn trades skills in South Auckland.

After the official powhiri, the Minister said, “I am impressed with the vision shown by New Zealand Management Academies to open this facility to train more builders, painters, plumbers and electricians. Last year thousands of NZMA graduates and students were placed into jobs. I have no doubt there will be a high demand for your trades students. I look forward to seeing more Pacific and Maori tradespeople graduate from here, and I congratulate the Academy for being part of the Housing Solution” With demand growing for skilled workers across the industry, the campus will be used by hundreds of students and staff. Programmes are available in Construction, Electrical Engineering, Painting and Plastering, Plumbing, Gasfitting and Drain Laying, and Youth Guarantee Level 2 all in a single NZMA hub. It will add to NZMA’s enviable reputation for delivering work-ready skills, from top level qualified tutors who know the industry inside-out. NZMA

Chief Executive, Mark Worsop says, “With New Zealand’s current construction boom there is real demand for skilled tradespeople, and we can address this shortfall with quality training and job placement.”

He added, “We’re really proud to be developing young people in these important and booming trade arenas. This campus will be an important training hub in Auckland, and we’re working closely with construction industry companies to place our graduates in sustainable employment”.

There is no better way to learn about the construction industry than to do it yourself, and NZMA is giving people building experience they’d find hard to get anywhere else. NZMA also have a team of Careers specialists who assist students in finding the right job.

According to a recent Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) report, construction investment growth is set to peak in 2020 and will increase requirements for construction-related occupations until at least the end of 2022.

Employers are facing an increasing skills shortage with overall construction staff demand in New Zealand set to increase by 11 per cent by 2022. This means around 56,000 new employees will be needed with approximately half of that demand centring around Auckland’s construction industry. (reference https://www.michaelpage.co.nz/advice/market-insights/industry-reports/new-zealand-s-construction-boom-means-big-demand-talent

Every area of construction is now mostly considered a skills shortage. From labourers to carpenters, plumbers to electricians, site supervisors to quantity surveyors, and engineers – skilled staff are hard to find.

With an easily accessible NZMA Trades Campus in South Auckland, the entire community will benefit. With strong numbers of Maori and Pasifika students, as well as those who have recently moved to New Zealand, getting a head-start on their careers will be easier with a campus of this calibre.

Qualified! Hawkins Māori & Pasifika Apprentice Scheme

Earlier this month, we celebrated four of our trainees becoming qualified tradesmen under the guidance of their respective mentors in the Hawkins Māori & Pasifika apprentice scheme.
Bo Waitere

Bo started his electrical apprenticeship in December 2014 with Caldwell & Levesque Electrical and now proudly has his own C&L van as a qualified electrician.

Jerome Holland

Jerome started his electrical apprenticeship in December 2014 also with Caldwell & Levesque Electrical and again proudly wears his new title of a qualified electrician.

Qualified electricians, Bo Waitere and Jerome Holland
Bo Waitere, left and Jerome Holland, right, with their mentor, Graeme Cox

Mackenzie Buchan

Mackenzie started his carpentry apprenticeship in March 2014 with Livefirm Construction and recently completed his apprenticeship with Hawkins

Certified Carpenter Mackenzie Buchan
Mackenzie Buchan, right, with his mentor Paul Wikiriwhi

Aarona Kingi-Paparoa

Aaron started his carpentry apprenticeship in December 2012 with Livefirm Construction and completed his last few years with CLM Carpenters. 

Certified Carpenter Aarona King-Paparoa
Aarona Kingi-Paparoa with his mentor, Richard Hughes

These boys had their own trials and tribulations to battle throughout their apprenticeship and have come out on top! Each of them should be so proud. Ngā mihi nui to all our mentors for seeing the boys through their apprenticeship adventures! 

C&L Apprentice of the year

In another win for the Hawkins Māori & Pasifika apprentice programme, Talmage Park has won the 2017 C&L Apprentice of the Year award. Talmage is pictured above receiving the award on-site from Stuart Caldwell. 

Caldwell & Levesque Electrical currently employs over 30 apprentices, six of whom came to us through the Hawkins Māori & Pasifika apprentice scheme.

Talmage has done extremely well this year in all facets of his apprenticeship: academically, with his unit standard sign-offs; and with his work on site. He is a positive but humble young man with a ‘can do’ attitude and is a very worthy recipient of this award.

Upon receiving the award Talmage said: “I can’t wait to show my mum”. What a great response from this young man with a big future!

C&L Apprentice of the year award winner Talmage Park
Congratulations to Talmage Park, pictured left, receiving the C&L Apprentice of the Year Award from Stuart Caldwell


Better for them, better for us

Apprenticeships better for everyone
Why hire a labourer when you can hire an apprentice? That’s the opinion of Auckland business owner Pat Coll, who’s trained about 180 electrical apprentices since starting Coll Electrical back in 1985.
A win-win

Pat says apprenticeships are a win-win, offering big benefits to both aspiring tradies and employers.

“Taking on apprentices is the right thing to do. It’s better for them, and it’s better for us,” he says.

“You’re giving workers an opportunity to up-skill, which means they can get paid more. A lot of guys who get an apprenticeship find out they’re quite good at it and they get better and better. You see guys grow, and it’s a neat feeling actually”.

“But it’s also good for us. Probably about 80% of our staff are people we’ve trained. A lot of them have gone overseas to travel, and they come back and become part of the management team. Most of our guys have been trained under us. It creates a bit of loyalty”.

Pat says more employers should consider taking on apprentices, rather than just hiring labourers.

“Why have a labourer when you can have an apprentice who’s just going to get better and better?

“To be honest, because of the size we are, it’s easy to train apprentices. It’s nothing major – no more than if we were taking on a labourer, no more than another staff member.”

Pat isn’t alone in finding apprenticeships valuable for business. Recent research by BCITO found for every $1 spent on training, a business will benefit by an average of $4.70 in increased profit for up to 10 years.

Wired for success

Among Coll Electrical’s 65 staff is 21-year-old Ioane McNiell-Temese, who began his apprenticeship in August this year.

Ioane was doing a Certificate in Electrical Engineering Theory (Level 3) at Manukau Institute of Technology when the opportunity arose to join the workforce.

“Pat gave me a call after seeing a profile that Travis (an MPTT navigator) made of me. He asked me to come in just for a chat, and that chat turned out to be the interview. That’s how I got the job – easy as that.”

Ioane, who is half Samoan and being supported by MPTT Auckland, could see the advantage of landing an apprenticeship.

“I thought it was really important to get qualified. It’s something I’ll have behind me for the rest of my life. What’s three years of training compared to a life of just labouring?

“Maybe in the future I can go to Australia or even start my own business – it opens up more doors than just being a labourer or driving a digger.”

And Ioane is quick to encourage other trainees to take the same path, if they get the chance.

“Get your apprenticeship as soon as you can. If you think you’re ready, even a little bit ready, you’re ready. Go out and do it – it’s much better than sitting in a classroom everyday; you’re making money while you study.”

Hands-on skills

Having previously worked as a chef, Ioane’s also loving the chance to work in a more physical job. “I’m really enjoying the work. It’s a bit different to the old cooking job! It’s more physical than I thought. I’m doing civil work at the moment, so I’ve been putting up street poles for the past month or so. The spade has been my friend.”

As part of his apprenticeship, Ioane will complete his Level 3 and Level 4 while he works. He’s doing his apprenticeship through Skills, and will spend one day in a classroom every fortnight – while still being paid. Pat says he doesn’t mind losing his apprentices when they go off-site to study.

“Skills is very good. They come in and sign the apprentices up, they assign them to which tech they’re going, and we just keep an eye on it. I have apprentices who I don’t have any issues with right through their apprenticeship. They go to tech, we sign off their book, they do their job, we pay them. It’s great – couldn’t be better.”

Looking for an apprentice you can trust? Ask our navigators about finding the right employee who can add value to your business.

Welcome to the whānau

Group shot
Our most recent intake of MPTT trainees from Unitec, MIT and NZMA were welcomed to the whānau at our ‘Whanaungatanga* Days’ in August and September. These events, led by the Industry Training Organisation for each trade, were a good chance for trainees to meet each other and get to know the MPTT team as well.

Trainees from the second semester of 2017 learned about the support and opportunities MPTT can offer on their journey to becoming fully qualified tradespeople and proud members of the community.

The trainees were all presented with their scholarships and listened to speakers talk about work readiness, how to succeed in the industry and the growing demand for women in the trades.

A trainee from MIT said one highlight was the ‘site visit’, where trainees got to experience what it’s like on the job.

“Having a third-year apprentice train the new guy gives me confidence that I have someone who understands where I’ve been.”

* Whanaungtanga means relationship, kinship, a sense of belonging and of connection through shared experiences.

Competenz and MITO Whanaungatanga Day
Wednesday 16 August

Following a welcome and the awarding of scholarships, our trainees went their separate ways. Welding and Fabrication trainees visited Metal Skills in East Tamaki where they got a good insight into what their futures could look like. They were accompanied by MPTT navigators Tu Nu’uali’itia and Travis Fenton from Oceania Careers Academy as well as Reg Currin from Competenz.

Refrigeration and Aircon trainees visited White Refrigeration in Grey Lynn and were accompanied by Rangi Williams from Competenz. Rangi shared some of the trainees feedback:

‘I like the small sized company as it feels closer and the work seems exciting.’

‘This site visit helped me make up my mind that this is what I want to do.’

‘Steve said there are 2 apprenticeships available at the end of the year. This makes me want to work harder for a spot.’

The automotive trainees remained at MIT where they learned about their future as automotive apprentices. MITO’s Brian Messer and Mark Lawrence said they had a lot of great conversations with the trainees.

Welding and Fabrication trainees were pretty impressed with the equipment at Metal Skills.

Feels good.

A quick demonstration for Welding and Fabrication students. Great to see some wahine coming through.

Navigator, Tu listening with a couple of the Welding and Fabrication students

Collecting some swag – MPTT shirts for all trainees

Skills Whanaungatanga Day
Wednesday 30 August. Electrical, and Plumbing & Gasfitting

Trainees visited Skills at their offices in Highbrook, East Tamaki. They heard from industry speakers including Ruana Letalu from Ara – Auckland Airport Skills and Job Hub and Issac Liava’a, the National Pasifika manager from Skills.

Matt Matamu, an account manager at Skills also spoke to them about what to expect as an apprentice in the Electrical, Plumbing & Gasfitting trades. Tu and Travis, who are MPTT Navigators from OCA introduced themselves to the trainees and spoke about the role of the navigator. Students enjoyed the visit saying that it had a real cultural feel and that it was nice to see lots of brown faces. Thanks MPTT.

It was neat to meet other MPTT students from Electrical & Plumbing, those guys were a crack-up

Skills Organisation
Electrical and Plumbing Recipients at Skills Whanaungatanga Day

Skills gets the thumbs up from Joeli Davis

Travis Fenton
Travis Fenton getting to know the trainees

MPTT navigator, Travis Fenton awards Electrical Trainee Taumua Belford his scholarship

Scholarship recipient
Mikayla Pinn receives her scholarship

Scholarship recipient
MPTT Manu Whakahaera, Sam Sefuiva congratulates an MIT trainee on his scholarship

Group shot
MPTT electrical and plumbing trainees for 2017 Semester 2 intake

Women in trades
Girl power. There are 7 females in this intake, all of them studying electrical. Join the movement

Bright futures

Future in the trades
What’s in the bag. Finding out about their futures in the trades

Electrical trainees getting to know each other

Kai time
MIT trainees enjoy some kai


Wednesday 6 September. Building and Construction

The Great BCITO Bus Tour took Building and Construction trainees out to Hobsonville Point, where they visited a large building site managed by Complete Build. Trainees were accompanied by Hayden Toomer from BCITO as well as Murray Conroy, Shirley Murray and Ana Cullen, the navigators from the Solomon Group.

The bus tour stopped at Sustainable Coastlines where everyone enjoyed kai cooked up by BCITO’s Richard Mason. Comments from some of the students included;

If I had a car, I’d get a job on a site like that, it’s so massive, heaps of work

Gonna tap BCITO for an apprenticeship!

Thanks for the bag BCITO got ya number

Getting to know each other
Aleni Ropati and Michael Holani on the Great BCITO Bus Tour

Inspiring projects
Lots of interest from Tauira in the block plans and models of the development

Hayden Toomer BCITO adds his expert advice. Hunia Rangi from Complete Build to the right and navigator Shirley Murray to the left

The boys from Hunterville
Two 19 year olds from Hunterville spoke of their experience as apprentices

Richard Mason
Thanks to Richard for his tireless efforts for MPTT. Making bacon.

Kai Time
Nothing like some kai to put a smile on faces

Women in Trades
Women in trades are highly sought after. Heather and Sarah have great prospects ahead of them

Building and Construction Apprentices
Building and Construction trainees Issac Nye and Mobeen Saheb

Building and Construction Apprentices
Networking time. Joe Seumanutafa, Jay Wairepo and Mayor Rubena get to know each other

Group shot
BCITO Whanaungatanga Group. What a great day

Working it
Thomas Inamata looking pretty pleased to be awarded his scholarship

Scholarship recipients
MPTT Ambassador, Sam Sefuiva congratulates Joe Seumanutafa on receiving his scholarship

Scholarship Recipient
Result for MPTT trainee Whareumu Karaka

Navigator, Shirley Murray shared her comments on the day:
All the speakers were very informative and well worth listening to. Two of the speakers who presented to our tauira were both aged 19yrs and on apprenticeships. They both came from a small place called Hunterville. They went on to describe how it was for them coming to the big city of Auckland, they touched on things like being homesick, and how they overcame it, also fitness and the need for it to be successful on the job, how they were supported on site by the BCITO’s and their mentors.

One of the speakers also spoke about women in the trades. He said that women are a sort after commodity but unfortunately they don’t seem to be coming through fast enough. The percentage of women engaging in construction needs to be encouraged as it has been recognised in the trade that women make excellent Project Managers. This is an area where women excel because of their ability to multi task in the first instance. This work is more strategic than physical and they cope better with paper and planning in general. A very good career prospect for the right women in Hi Vis.


Wednesday 23 August. Consumer Services

Consumer Services Trainees and tutors visited the Toi-ohomai Institute of Technology in Rotorua where they stayed at the Marae overnight. They stopped in Hamilton on the way, where the Horticulture students explored the Botanical Gardens. Later, the hospitality students had the opportunity to cook and serve dinner for their group.

Caroline Harris from ServiceIQ accompanied the group along with one of their apprentices who shared their experiences with the trainees. Feedback from the trainees showed they came back inspired and were keen to do it all again:

Awesome, we need more whanaungatanga with other MPTT students

I made new friends, the tutors were great and participated in activities – we want another one of these events

Food was the best – can’t beat home-cooked kai and thanks for the lunch packs

Thank you MPTT you’re the best!

Talofa lava MPTT, can we organise the next whanaungatanga event?

Thanks to all those who gave up their time and resources to help make these days happen.