License to …earn

It just got a whole lot easier — and potentially cheaper — to get your driver’s licence. From this month, Waka Kotahi is scrapping retest fees for licences. And with only about half of people passing on their first attempt, this means a lot of savings for new drivers.

Lacking a driver’s licence is one of the biggest barriers to employment for many young Māori and Pasifika people.

Even if you’re not driving as part of your job, most employers want to know you can run errands to and from the site. Also, other licences, such as a forklift licence for warehouses, rely on you having your full licence first. It really does change your options.

The process starts with a theory test for your Learner licence, and there are plenty of resources to help you prepare and feel confident. You can read more about the process in our earlier blog

MPTT navigators are ready to support you in getting your licence as part of the scholarship’s Work Readiness programme. They’re always ready to give you advice on where to start. In some cases, MPTT will be able to provide you with financial help and our navigators can share ideas on how to prepare for the test. Our partners can often help, too. 

Latu Puloka leads OCA’s team of Navigators, who walk alongside students and their families, helping as needed.

He explains, “Our goal is to put them into employment once they graduate with us.

Reliable transport is one of the most important parts of their employment success. In fact, many roles require a full licence for you to apply.

Latu says getting a licence can be especially difficult for the young people he works with. To get your licence, you need to have access to a computer, resources and help to prepare, a car to practice in and somewhere safe and supportive to do it. OCA is taking care of all of this.

MPTT student from OCA working towards earning his drivers license in New Zealand

“We bring in specialists to develop a work plan to prepare each person for the first Learner’s test. They have a one-on-one session where they’re shown the website and how to practice the questions. 

“Each week, we check in on their progress. When they’re confident and ready, we take them to sit the test and cover the cost of it. If they miss out, we’ll get them ready and support them to re-sit.”

Once people have their learners, OCA keeps them on the road towards their practical test.

“We have someone come in with a car and give lessons – until they’re confident and ready to take the test for their restricted licence.” 

Latu says it’s a huge milestone for people when they get their restricted licence, but it’s gaining their full licence that takes them the whole way.

“Too many young people stop progressing once they get their restricted. But we really encourage our learners to get their full. That gives them much more freedom legally but also a whole lot more opportunity. 

“All classes of heavy vehicle licences rely on you having a full licence first. That’s why we keep helping people get to the next stage once they’ve done their restricted with us.”

With the fee changes from Waka Kotahi starting in October, now is a great time to prioritise your licence. For those tradies and trainees who are still to get their full licence, it’s worth putting it back on the radar.

Empowering Māori and Pasifika Women Through Trades Training: Bridging the Pay Gap

Wāhine who get qualified in trades are not only building themselves a future; they’re also helping to bridge the pay gap for all women, Māori and Pasifika. They’re paving the way for their sisters – and brothers – to unlock higher-paying careers with mana and dignity.

It’s disappointing that a pay gap persists. Fair-minded organisations are sick of the lack of progress and recently sent an open letter to the government requesting more action.

The Pacific Pay Gap Inquiry Report compared earnings for pakeha men with those of others. It found that for every dollar a Pākehā man made in 2021:

  • Pākehā women earned 89 cents
  • Māori men earned 86 cents
  • Māori women earned 81 cents
  • Pasifika men earned 81 cents
  • Pasifika women earned just 75 cents.

Sam Sefuiva, MPTT Mana Whakahare/Project Manager

This gap means people are not only missing out on crucial wages, but opportunities to fulfil their potential and make meaningful choices about their lives.

The report also looked for the reasons. Racism, unconscious bias and discrimination are holding back women and Māori and Pasifika workers from realising their full potential.

Sam Sefuiva, MPTT Project Manager, says that MPTT Auckland is helping Māori and Pasifika succeed in the trades while creating social change.

The solution: Trades training for higher-paying careers

“We’re here to give Māori and Pasifika trainees practical support to build their careers. We offer free fees, a tools kete including life and work readiness skills, and help to find work.”

Women can take a hammer to the industry’s glass ceiling by learning trade skills. It’s a pathway to earn while you learn, do hands-on work that keeps you fit and have skills that are in demand by employers. Sam says,

“By closing this pay gap, we can ensure everyone in our communities has the opportunity to thrive, and those families on the lowest wages can break from the constraints of poverty.”

Qualified tradespeople can enjoy secure, well-paid work. With the shortage of qualified tradespeople in Aotearoa, there’ll be even more jobs to choose from in future.

Trades projects are usually a team effort, so your skills could lead to a variety of roles. Many tradespeople also become managers or start their own kaipakihi (business).

It’s crucial to become qualified

Qualification can help you break through barriers to better pay.

The Pay Gap report showed many people were paid little more than minimum wage despite years of getting skills in the same job. It also showed the pay limits of staying a contractor, casual worker, or seasonal worker without security.

MPTT supports our trainees into apprenticeships because it’s game-changing. As an apprentice, you’ll be paid to work towards your qualification. That means you’ll do practical assessments at work, which your boss will sign off on to say you’ve successfully learned those skills. You’ll also do some off-job training to learn more about the theory behind your trade.

Once you’ve finished your apprenticeship, you’ll be fully qualified in your trade.

Toni, an apprentice and young mum is an outstanding example. Eddie Green, who oversees Toni’s work at Pacific Steel, says she will be “fighting off job offers” once she’s certified.

We’ve got your back while you close the gap

MPTT Navigators guide trainees through their training and beyond, helping them to find their voice and place at work. They encourage them to aim high and continually develop their skills.

Makahn Warren-Chapman, MPTT Navigator

MPTT Navigator Makahn says she and her team consider the whole journey so they can give the right support at the right time.

Navigators support ākonga to identify anything that might stand in the way of their progress so they can help them make a plan to get past any obstacles. This includes things such as getting a driver’s licence and arranging childcare.

“One of the things we have identified is that people might not know how to write an effective CV, so we’ve developed a workshop that can assist with this. We also offer workshops about how to manage job interviews,” says Navigator Makahn Warren-Chapman.

MPTT also partners with training and industry organisations that value their Māori and Pasifika workers and advocate for them.

The open letter on Pay Gaps says, Supporting employers to do the right thing and to be transparent about their pay gap is a good first step.

Be part of the change

Since we started in 2015, MPTT has helped more than 4,195 trainees learn a trade, and 42% (as of the end of 2022) of our graduates are now in apprenticeships, trades-related employment or further study.

Working together, we can build a future where everyone, whatever their ethnicity or gender, is paid fairly for their work and treated with respect and dignity.

Not only is this the right thing to do, but it will ensure Aotearoa New Zealand is honouring te Tiriti o Waitangi and meeting its human rights obligations. It will also bring us in line with other progressive countries already moving towards closing their pay gaps.

If you’d like to learn more about how an MPTT scholarship can unlock your future, we’d love to hear from you. And similarly, if you’re an employer who cares about building a fairer Aotearoa for your team and community, get in touch.

David Parsons – MPTT Kaitohutohu Ahumahi

David Parsons — MPTT Kaitohutohu Ahumahi
David Parsons is of Ngāpuhi decent, his marae is Taheke, he whakapapa’s to the Pou whānau. At MPTT he is our Kaitohutohu Ahumahi.
David has almost 20 years of experience with the BCITO (Building and Construction Training Organisation) helping people navigate the trades. He is delighted to join the MPTT project team so that he can give back to the sector he loves and help support Māori and Pasifika into trades.

David’s role is as an industry connector. He’ll be supporting tauira, providers, and employers to ensure strong, smooth progressions from pre-trades training to apprenticeships and beyond. 

He’ll help MPTT tauira take their next step once they have completed their pre-trade course with their navigators who together will help them find employment and an apprenticeship.

His long experience in the industry means he’s seen how much success spreads when trainees commit to the trades.

“Those who stay the distance to get qualified become sought after successful employers who inspire others to join the trades. This tuakana teina relationship is special to Māori and Pasifika and is immensely powerful.”

David acknowledges that it can be a challenge to persevere and get qualified, but he says the long-term gains are worth it.

David is here to help anyone who wants support seeing their apprenticeship or apprentice all the way through.

David also wants to encourage more Māori to step forward and put themselves out there. By doing so they can receive the support they need to succeed in the trades. “It’s about making things better for Māori and Pasifika,” he says. With David on the team, we’re sure to do more of that than ever.

Tue le Vā: Supporting Māori and Pasifika employees to thrive

When your team has a sense of wellbeing at work, they’re more likely to have higher motivation and effectiveness, and that affects your bottom line. Understanding how to support your Māori and Pasifika staff can help everyone be at their best.

Māori and Pasifika have specific needs – some of which differ from the rest of New Zealand. And in Auckland, we have one of the largest Polynesian populations in the world.

Our Pasifika community includes at least 13 distinct languages and cultural groups. Pacific people are linked with tangata whenua and embrace the bi-cultural foundation of Aotearoa. However, this doesn’t mean ignoring subtle differences among people. In fact, personalisation and cultural understanding are key.

What do our Māori and Pasifika employees need? regularly surveys its network to understand wellbeing at work. Their team has found that efforts to be culturally inclusive often fall short.

“In improving wellbeing, building ‘genuine care’ should be a key focus area for both Māori and Pasifika,” they say.

However, Skills found that Māori place more importance on a good work-life balance, a culture that looks after employee wellbeing and policies that look after staff wellbeing.

On the other hand, priorities for Pasifika are a job that makes them feel worthwhile, a good work-life balance and opportunities for training and development.

To fully support those with Māori or Pasifika backgrounds means embracing what they bring as a whole person. Practical steps can help you welcome new team members and improve performance. In turn, you’ll strengthen your business’s resilience through talent.

How can employers support Māori and Pasifika staff?

One of the most impactful ways to strengthen cultural support in your business is to provide new employees with role models, support and mentors of the same ethnicity. This can be especially important in the context of your business’s own cultural norms. Pairing someone with an experienced buddy from the same culture means they have someone who can empathise and who gets them.

Whānau plays an important role in the lives of Māori and Pasifika people. Pasifika parents often make decisions about their children’s careers, so it’s worth making and taking opportunities to engage with families. People need to know what to expect from an apprenticeship so they can set up the right support.

Competenz is another of our training partners who research and develop strategies to better support Māori and Pasifika. They gather insights from industry and the community.

“Pasifika people are proud. Many don’t ask questions because they don’t want to be seen to be failing. Many Māori learners are quite reserved. Getting to know them personally is the best way to encourage them to open up with questions.”

Teu le vā, ‘nurture the relationship’ is a common expression in Polynesian culture. Vā is the space between, not empty space but the sacred betweenness. The saying acknowledges the importance of mutual trust, respect and maintaining each person’s integrity. Putting this at the heart of your relationships with Pasifika is vital. For example, make sure you have a process so that names are pronounced correctly. Listen when your team talks about their obligations outside of work.

What’s the opportunity?

E vave taunu’u le malaga pe a tatou alo va’a fa’atasi.
Our journey makers will arrive at our destination faster if we paddle our va’a/waka together.

Our Māori and Pasifika workers are an untapped source of talent and leadership. Competenz’s research found that Māori and Pasifika still have lower rates of enrolment in workplace trades training than other ethnicities. However, Māori and Pasifika learners complete their qualifications at the same rate as learners of other ethnicities. It means we’re missing out.

Welcoming more Māori and Pasifika into trades is one of the best opportunities we have to build a skilled and productive workforce in our industries and nation.

Employing people from varied backgrounds means you benefit from their different perspectives and problem-solving approaches. Plus, you’ll be helping create social change through a more diverse workforce. Having a team that reflects this shows you value your community’s diversity as customers too.

If your organisation would like to learn more about cultural competency, then we’re here to help.

Please register your interest with us now for a workshop evening, free for MPTT employers. 

Drive to qualify delivers awesome automotive careers

Romeet Chand and Jason Pou are pursuing their passion with careers in different parts of the automotive industry. Jason has completed his Light Automotive Engineering qualification at Mercedes-Benz Auckland, and Romeet has completed his Heavy Road Transport qualification at Truckstops. Both of these MPTT scholars are turbo-charging their futures and making the most of support along the way.

The two have always loved cars, and they said training to enter the industry made sense.

Jason said he reached a point in his life where he wanted to have a skill to back him up, so he decided to become qualified in a trade. MPTT supported him with funding, and when he was ready to find employment, a Navigator helped him secure his first interview. He was eventually offered a role with Mercedes, an opportunity not to pass by.

Romeet has had a lifelong drive to find a career in the automotive field. He grew up in West Auckland and has been around cars and engines since he was small. He studied Level 2 and 3 Automotive Engineering at MIT as well as Welding and Fabrication at Level 3 and has now completed his apprenticeship. He first secured a position at Truckstop through MPTT partner and industry training organisation MITO. Romeet is enthusiastic about the support he received from MITO.

Romeet explains, “MITO does heavy-duty diesel apprenticeships. They provide the training materials via eLearning and come in and see us regularly to assess where we’re at and make sure we have credits, and goals so we are on track to get qualified. 

“My advisor, Brad, kept us to deadlines and made sure we got things done on time and made getting my qualification so much easier.” 

Brad Hepi says helping apprentices is an important part of his role at MITO. “We work alongside MPTT in identifying young people that want a career in the automotive industry. With MPTT, we support our Māori and Pasifika, providing an extra layer of care and support. We give theoretical and technical support as well as help to guide people throughout the apprenticeship journey.

Jason Pou completed his apprenticeship in April 2022.

No idling

Although Romeet and Jason both brought a lot of knowledge, there’s been no time to idle. The learning is at a fast pace.

Jason says he was surprised at how much he has learned in completing his apprenticeship. “I started my pre-trades a bit later in life, and I thought I knew a lot. But then I kind of had to eat a humble sandwich pretty early.” 

Nevertheless, he completed his qualification in April 2022, despite the disruption of the pandemic.

Advisor Brad says the ability to go at your own pace is an advantage of the automotive apprenticeship programme.

“Automotive apprenticeships are unlike some others where it’s time-based. Instead, if you’re disciplined, you can get through it more quickly.

“We allow three or four years for a normal apprenticeship. But that becomes shorter if you’re academic enough, understand everything practically and are good with your hands. Both Romeet and Jason qualified way ahead of their estimated completion dates.”

Romeet, who qualified in April, says an important part of completing the apprenticeship was to get experience across all the areas of the trade.

“For example, if I needed to do something with a turbo, I had to wait until a truck with a turbo failure came in. But it works out by keeping in touch with your foreman about what sort of jobs you want to work on.

“Also, MITO is able to help by putting us on block courses for a few days to do certain things that may not otherwise come up regularly.

“There is a lot of support and lots of people who can help you out.”

The apprenticeship itself is about rolling your sleeves up and getting your hands dirty – but not as dirty as you might think.

Brad says the industry has changed a lot and is not so dirty and greasy any more. And there are plenty of opportunities.

“There’s a real shortage of qualified technicians out there in the industry at the moment, both for light vehicles and heavy vehicles. We have a genuine skill gap in both areas in New Zealand.

The automotive industry employs almost 60,000 people, and the qualifications that MITO support include Automotive Technician (Mechanic), Collision Repair Technician and Refinisher (Panelbeater), EV Technician and more 

Jason’s qualification in Light Vehicle Engineering equips him to work anywhere in the world on cars, SUVs and similar vehicles. Romeet’s qualification, Heavy Automotive Engineering, sets him up to work on a range of road transport vehicles.

Taking time to tune their skills

Now that Romeet and Jason are qualified, they’ve unlocked new opportunities to progress in the industry and can aspire to more senior and lucrative roles in the future. However, both say they are getting a huge amount of satisfaction from building their skills where they are.

“I just want to become a better and more efficient mechanic. You sort of catch on and know when you’re improving,” says Jason.

“When it comes to diagnosing issues with cars, some of it’s easy, but some of it can be the most difficult part of the work. And it’s pretty satisfying when you can find the issue and pinpoint it early without even having to go through all the steps.”

Romeet says, “I’m just looking to stay here and build my experience with more trucks. I’m studying to get my welding ticket, and that will enable me to do more where I work.”

Both of the boys are excited about how the industry is evolving.

“Things are changing fast with electric vehicles coming in and the ways trucks are made with more focus on emissions,” says Romeet.

Jason agrees. “It’s a changing trade. Even once you’re qualified, you’ve got to keep training and learn about what’s happening on the market, as opposed to other trades where I think once you learn how to do something, that’s that. Instead, it’s just like a consistently changing field.”

The future looks bright for these tradies, especially now that they have their qualifications.

Brad Hepi explains that once you’re qualified, you can go anywhere in the world.

“You know you’re in high demand. That’s one of the fortunate things about our NZQA standard; it’s one of the most highly regarded and recognised qualifications on the globe.

“Jason and Romeet were focused and motivated to complete their apprenticeships. But most of all, they worked hard, and they will both gain the benefits of that.”

Romeet was unavailable for photography at the time of publishing.

Collaboration supports Māori and Pasifika success

Whakairohia he toki, tāraia te anamata
Learning with purpose, creating our futures.
At MPTT, we know that collaboration and leadership are vital to ensuring our people can thrive.  It’s heartening to see our kaupapa resonate across the sector, with Māori and Pasifika advocates increasingly recognised for the value they bring. To help our people become work-ready, and get set up to thrive in the trades, support at every level is important. 

At Te Pukenga, former ITOs have come together as Work Based Learning organisations. Sonya Bishara is Director – Partnerships and Equity at Te Pukenga. Working within the Construction WBL (BCITO) are Jacquie-Anne Heta, Principal Adviser Māori and Therese Fatu, Principal Adviser Pasifika. 

At Competenz, David Walding has been appointed to the pivotal role of GM Operational Transformation. Part of his portfolio is to ensure Māori and Pasifika learners and apprentices remain the focus of Competenz operations, especially in manufacturing and engineering. David is supported by Helen Taimarangai (Pacific Lead) and Reg Currin (Trades Careers Advisor), who is also focused on Māori achievement.

At Connexis, Vanessa Veart-Smith is the Māori and Pacific Lead covering Infrastructure.

Our partners are also playing their part

In addition to the WBLs, MPTTs other training partners are also doing what they can to support the success of our Māori and Pasifika students. They include:

  • Mita Tupaea, Kaiārahi – Te Ao Māori, Skills Consulting Group
  • Manu Palelei, Strategic Business & Performance Manager & Chief Advisor Pasifika, Skills Consulting Group
  • Vau Atonio, Trades Campus Manager NZMA
  • Kim Roe-Herewini, Academic Administration and Operations Coordinator, OCA

At Etco, the Electrical Training Company, Janice Smith, CFO and Nadia Tuítahi, GM of Academic Operations, are offering training, mentoring and employment opportunities to Māori and Pasifika apprentices. Together with their ‘host’ electrical businesses, they’re helping to increase the number of quality electrical practitioners.

Etco has a mentoring team of electricians and trainers, including former MPTT graduate Chris Luatua.

He’s among those who give ongoing mentoring to tauira to help them meet the qualifying standards. As of October 2022, they will also be giving support to apprentices currently managed by the Skills Consulting Group.

More industry collaboration means more support

From the beginning, our collaborative model has included working with trades employers across the trades sectors. We work closely with major companies and their sub-contracted companies to negotiate onsite training, employment and continued pastoral support to Māori and Pacifika tradies. 

The persistence and dedication of everyone in the wider MPTT whānau ensures our kaupapa of collaboration and care continues to spread. And better support for Māori and Pasifika so more of us can thrive – ka rawe. 

Shifting the Dial – together

Shifting the dial
Shifting the Dial is a new paper that reveals the far-reaching benefits of improved learning and training pathways for Māori and Pasifika. Billions of dollars in earning increases are available if changes are made. And that could transform our communities.

Simply put, the needs of our people must lead innovation in the education sector.

The paper showed compelling economic modelling by the New Zealand Institute of Economic Research. Lifting the educational outcomes of underserved learners to the national average would lead to $10.9 billion in extra wages over a thirty-year period, adjusting for labour force participation.

The paper was led by UP Education, which offers a whole range of training, including through MPTT training provider, NZMA. NZMA trades is already doing great things to lead with tikanga and to support women into the trades.

Craig Rushworth, CE of UP Education, says it’s about putting learners first.

“While underserved learners come from a wide range of ethnicities and backgrounds, Māori, Pacific peoples and people with disabilities are over-represented in the underserved learners’ group. So, it’s clear that we can improve our education system because currently, it’s not delivering for too many learners of Aotearoa.”

The paper gave 13 recommendations for government, policymakers and education providers to shift the Dial.

  1. Adopt and invest in tried and tested learning programmes that have been co-designed with Māori, Pacific and disabled communities to create system-wide change.
  2. Implement tailored learning plans that focus on each individual learner, identify their barriers to education and develop a strategy to address these.
  3. Introduce improved wraparound services – social workers, counsellors, support workers and careers advisors – dedicated to working with hard-to-reach students.
  4. Introduce accessibility legislation with clear standards for post-secondary education providers with a focus on mainstreaming accessibility.
  5. Implement national best practices for support services that work regularly with students at risk of being underserved.
  6. Encourage innovation and flexibility in the post-secondary education sector with the implementation of incentives to improve educational outcomes for hard-to-reach ākonga.
  7. Increase the visibility of Māori, Pacific and people with disabilities in the education sector through a focused recruitment strategy and workforce development strategy.
  8. Facilitate education providers to partner with iwi to deliver education programmes through marae, with a tikanga learning approach.
  9. Provide improved mechanisms for Māori, Pacific and disabled students to have a stronger voice on decisions and strategies that impact them.
  10. Ensure the teaching of soft and life skills is built into all courses so that all learners leave a course not only academically qualified but also work-ready.
  11. Expand vocational trades training into more secondary schools through partnership with tertiary providers, with the aim of keeping more young people engaged with education.
  12. Undertake a review of curricula so that they are immersive and culturally inclusive to ensure course materials reflect a modern New Zealand and that all students can see themselves in the material they are learning from.
  13. Create a sense of belonging and a positive learning environment through cultural motifs, artworks, posters and wayfinding that make all students feel welcome.

“Ultimately, it’s about breaking the mould of the existing education system and meeting students’ needs on their own learning terms. From students, through to teachers at the front line, as well as policy and cultural experts, they are all saying the same thing,” says Rushworth.

“Investing in underserved learning is a social investment in New Zealand’s future and is one of the most influential levers we have to improve the lives of thousands of New Zealanders.”

At MPTT, we’re proud to be part of this solution and to be bringing together others who share our vision and commitment.

You can access the report at UP Education’s website here. 

How to show you have a great attitude

If there’s one thing your boss wants you to bring to work from day one, it’s a great attitude. Your ‘A’ game! But how do you get one? For many of our trainees, it’s about taking an honest look at what they say and do – plus doing some simple things that show they’re keen to learn. Here, we look at practical ways to impress your boss and do well in the workplace.

Bringing a positive, motivated attitude to the mahi will not only help you get hired and score an apprenticeship, it can also help you get promoted in the future and get great references when you decide to change jobs. Your employer will see you are present at work and interested in the job.

MPTT navigator Hami Chapman works with tauira to help them get work-ready, which includes having the right attitude. He says improving your attitude means doing some thinking and being open to how you might need to change.

“As navigators, we often see subtle changes in our tauira’s attitude after we work with them. We encourage the tauira to look in a mirror to identify what needs changing, then work out what that change could look like. Sometimes it’s like seeing a lightbulb come on in their heads.”

To help show the importance of attitude, one exercise navigators do with tauira is to assign each letter of the alphabet a number (A = 1, B = 2, etc) and add up the value of the word ‘attitude’, says Hami.

“What they find is that the letter values add up to 100. We tell them, this is what employers want to see… 100% attitude.”

So what does it mean to have a great attitude, and how do you know if you have one? The bad news is, no one can do it for you – a good attitude comes from within. But the good news is, it’s simpler than you might think.

Show up

Whether it’s your interview or your first day on the job, the best way to get things off to a good start is to show up on time.

Mark Katterns, project director at Hawkins Construction, says showing up on time each day is the key to doing well in the trades industry.

“To succeed, you need the work ethic. If you’re not on that waka, then you might as well not come. You’ve got to be there ready to work at 7am and not looking to finish work early – we leave at 4:30pm, no sooner.”

What to do

  • Aim to show up on site at least 10 minutes early, so you’re less likely to be late if something unexpected happens on the way, like traffic being worse than usual.

  • Don’t pack up early or be the first to leave every day. Keep working until it’s time to stop, and ask your boss if there’s anything that needs to be done before you leave. This shows you’re keen and wanting to do the work.

Ask questions

Your boss wants to see you’re motivated to learn, and one of the best ways to show that is to ask questions.
It can feel uncomfortable to put yourself out there and ask a question, but it’s worth the effort, says qualified mechanical engineer and MPTT graduate George Patterson.

“It was hard to put my hand up and say, ‘Can you please explain that and slow it down for me?’ That’s what you have to learn to do though.

“When things get hard, just ask. I feel like that’s a big thing for Pacific Islanders — we’re shy about asking questions, asking for help, speaking up. There’s never a dumb question. Always remember that you’re an apprentice and you’re still learning.”

George’s boss, Ian Norton, says having an employee who asks questions makes his job much easier, because then he knows if he needs to explain things further.

“The great thing with George is that if he doesn’t know something, he asks.”

What to do

  • When your boss is explaining something to you, try to come up with at least one question you can ask. Asking questions helps you learn more.

  • If you don’t know something, make sure you ask. This shows your boss they can trust you to speak up. Remember, your boss doesn’t expect you to know it all and they need to know if you don’t understand anything.

Take notes

It can be hard to remember everything your boss says. So, when they’re explaining how to do a job, try taking notes.

Dave Robb, Ritchies Murphy Transport Solutions workshop manager, says taking notes can help you stand out and shows you want to learn. This was what impressed him about Kamosi Finau and Puna Taruia, who came for work experience but ended up being offered apprenticeships.

“I brought in half a dozen students for an introduction to a real engineering worksite,” says Dave. “Some of the students were a bit cocky and some didn’t seem interested. But these two were writing things down and really taking notice.”

“It’s about attitude in this game — you don’t have to know anything, you just have to be really keen to learn.”

What to do

  • Get a small notepad and pen and keep them in your pocket at work. That way, you can take notes whenever your boss tells you something new, or whenever you think of something you want to learn more about.

Stay busy

Another great way to show your positive attitude is to volunteer for work you haven’t been asked to do.

So, when you’re on site and you finish a task, make sure you look for something else to keep you busy, says automotive apprentice Kamosi Finau.

“You can never stand there with your hands in your pockets. You’ve got to always be watching the tools and the ways of doing things.”

What to do

  • When you’re on site and you finish a task, don’t check your phone or stand there waiting for your boss to tell you what to do next – look around to see if anything needs tidying up or ask someone else on the team if they need help.
  • Think you know what might need to be done next? Ask your boss if they want you to get started. Making a suggestion is better than just asking what they want you to do – even if you get it wrong. It shows you’ve thought about what might need doing, rather than just waiting to be told what to do.

Keep on top of your bookwork

If you’re in an apprenticeship, it’s important to work on your theory regularly.

Employer Eddie Green, who oversaw mechanical engineering apprentice Toni Rhind’s work at Pacific Steel, says staying up to date with your bookwork is useful to your boss. It helps you to be a good team member at work.

“Toni’s a role model. Her schoolwork and block course is always up to date. She adds a lot of value to our business and she’s always been outstanding.”

As an apprentice, George Patterson put off the theory work at first, but eventually found that keeping on top of his bookwork was much less stressful.

“Try not to leave things to the last minute, because that’s when you start panicking.”

What to do

  • Set aside time each week for theory work. Doing the work in smaller chunks is much easier and less stressful than trying to find time to do it all at once later on.

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.

No trades experience? Here’s how to start

You can start learning about your trade in a classroom – but it’s hands-on experience that really builds your skills. Find out the best way to get some experience under your belt now, and help you land the job you want later.

To become a skilled tradie, you need time on the tools. But when you’re just starting out, how do you get an employer to take you on? Work experience can help you get your foot in the door and learn heaps about your trade – even if you’ve never worked as a tradie before.

What is work experience?

There are two main ways that work experience is different from a regular job, says Doug Leef, Kaitohutohu Ahumahi (Community Industry Advisor) for MPTT.

  • It’s only for a set amount of time (whatever you agree on with the employer).

“The expectation is not months of unpaid work but one or two days a week as time, study and employer requirements allow,” says Doug, who is also a qualified builder.

  • You usually won’t get paid. That means employers can afford to take a chance on new trainees who don’t have the experience it usually takes to get employed.

“Think of work experience as creating opportunities and discussions that didn’t exist before, and an investment in your future,” says Doug. “For example, the company I did unpaid work experience for gave me an apprenticeship, and 13 years later I owned the company!”

Why do work experience?

It’s essential to get practical experience in your trade, says Doug.

“Work experience is about getting out into the real world and seeing what life is going to be like post-study. It shows potential employers your commitment to your trade.”

Initially you may feel awkward or uncomfortable in a new space with different people, but experience is how you build your skills.

“Think of it as ‘try before you buy’ and remember that once your course finishes, you’re into the real world,” says Doug.

Here are some of the main benefits of work experience if you’re just starting out in your trade:
  • It’ll help you get a foot in the door, because it’s much less risky for an employer to take you on for work experience than to offer you a job contract straight away.

  • You’ll get to use what you’ve learned in the classroom, and you’ll learn heaps about life on the job.

  • You’ll get a trade job to add to your CV.

  • You can ask for a reference, for when you apply for a job later.

  • It’s a lot easier to get a job once you have some experience in your trade.

  • Once the employer gets to know you and sees you’re a hard worker, they might be keen to offer you paid work.

How to find work experience

It’s a good idea to start looking for work experience well before you finish your course.

“It comes down to the individual. But ideally, the earlier you start the better so you’re creating relationships and opportunities that will serve you well at the end of your course,” says Doug.

Try these ideas for finding work experience opportunities:
  • Tell everyone you know that you’re looking for work experience in your trade. You never know who might be able to help, and if an employer knows someone who knows you, they’ll be more likely to take you on.

  • If you know anyone who works in your trade, ask if they or their employer have any work experience opportunities.

  • MPTT has contacts throughout the trades industry, so ask your MPTT Navigator if they know of any work experience opportunities.

  • Try asking an employer directly. Let them know you like their company and would love to offer your skills. If you’re not sure which employers to ask, Doug recommends trying the tradies in your area first. “I alway suggest starting close to home to make life easier.” It takes guts to introduce yourself to an employer, but it shows you’re keen to learn and can really help you stand out. Even if they say ‘no’, they’ll appreciate your confidence and might suggest other employers for you to approach.

No matter how you go about finding work experience, it’s important to plan for that first conversation with your potential boss.

“Take time to research the company by looking at their website and customer reviews,” says Doug. “That will help you make an informed decision before approaching them about work experience.”

He also recommends talking to your MPTT navigator to help you prepare for discussions with an employer. They can let you know what to expect and give you tips on how to make a good impression.

And once you’re on site, remember employers want workers who are keen to learn – so don’t be afraid to speak up if you don’t understand something.

“Most of all, ask questions if you’re unsure and keep yourself safe, because it’s a long road to retirement!”

Construction veteran’s colourful career

With more than five decades’ experience in construction, industry stalwart Ben Mckay still loves using his skills to help others. Find out how Ben’s trade has allowed him to be his own boss and taken him around the world, from Mangere to Myanmar.

Learning a trade has been life-changing for Ben Mckay. Since training as a builder back in the late 1960s through the Māori Trade Training Scheme, the 70-year-old’s practical skills have continued to open doors for him.

After getting his carpentry and joinery apprenticeship, Ben was able to take his trade overseas, including to the Solomon Islands, Fiji, Thailand, and Myanmar (Burma). 

This experience meant he could see the world while earning money and continuing to grow his skills – an option he says is still a great choice for young tradies.

“Look at the journey,” says Ben. “I didn’t know I was going to go overseas. Someone just approached me. They saw I’d been through the trades, and they asked if I’d like to go and work overseas. 

“I’ve never, ever paid for a passport in my life – and I’ve had four of them! Those opportunities still exist for the young ones today.” 

Ben, who was born in Wairoa, knew it was important to get qualified thanks to advice from his dad.

“I always remembered in the back of my mind that my dad said: ‘Get a real job — not a labouring job or making tea or something like that’.”

So, at 17 years old, Ben (Ngāti Kahungunu Ki Rongomaiwahine, Ngāti Awa, Ngāti Porou, Waikato) caught a train from Hastings to Wellington, to do his carpentry and joinery apprenticeship. 

He did his training through the Māori Trade Training Scheme, in which MPTT Auckland has its roots. The scheme saw thousands of Māori gain trade qualifications between 1959 and the mid-1980s, creating a generation of Māori leaders in the trades — a legacy MPTT is working to continue.

“Doing that training was a turning point for me,” says Ben. “There were 23 of us and we lived in the hostel together, learning plumb, square and level from our tutors.

“We lived, cried and did everything there together.”

After eight years in Wellington, Ben got married and eventually moved to Auckland for work.

“I was managing the trades training for Owens from their office in Ponsonby. They had two hostels here and I used to check what supplies and equipment they needed to be building houses.”

Later he worked for Fletcher Construction, where he managed the steel works in Mangere, and spent four years working for himself as a contractor. He also worked for Australian company Civil & Civic on multi-story buildings on Queen St, and even spent some time building sets for TV shows. 

Then in 1987, Fletcher invited Ben to go to the Solomon Islands to help build a secondary school. He stayed there until 1993, along with his wife and four children. 

“Every weekend I went fishing — I didn’t go to the pub. We caught everything up there, even snakes and crocodiles!

“We collected mushrooms, grew our own food, went crab hunting and did crab races — it was a good life.”

After working in several places in Asia and the Pacific, Ben returned to New Zealand and used his skills to work for himself. He started two businesses, one of which he still runs. 

A big benefit of being a qualified carpenter is you can build your own home, says Ben.

“Building your own home is a great way to get ahead. I’ve built homes for my brother, my brother-in-law, my cousins, and all over the world.” 

Having built everything from mega structures to humble abodes, Ben has always enjoyed using his skills to solve problems and help others. These days, he continues to give back to those in his community.

“Me and my son just went around to help this old lady — she’s 76. We spent three hours fixing up her stairs, using whatever timber we had. She asked us, ‘How much?’ I just said, ‘What do you mean?’

“I just like to help people who need help. It’s good to give back.”

Ben’s career has taken him far and wide. Here, he’s seen working on a project in Niue, for the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. 

Māori and Pasifika Trades students are always part of the whānau, even after graduation. As one of our alumni, we’ll let you know about industry news and job offers and give you ongoing access to a supportive network in the trades. Make sure you follow us on Facebook and Instagram to stay connected.

Our whānau is growing

It was exciting to see some of our latest intake of future tradies gather together this month, after MPTT’s group events had been delayed due to Covid-19. 

Check out these photos of Unitec’s Whanaungatanga Day, where new trainees were welcomed to the whānau and awarded their scholarship certificates and MPTT shirts.