Chris Lautua had a stable, well-paid office job – but he wanted to do hands-on, physically active work. He retrained as a sparky and is now well on the way to a career that ticks all the boxes.

As a child, Chris Lautua dreamed of working with technology.

But having been steered towards doing a communications degree by his high school teachers, it wasn’t until last year that the 29-year-old finally made the leap and started training to be an electrician

“The thought of sitting in an office just wasn’t me. I like practical work – being active, moving around, not being in the same place every day. And I always had the picture of being my own boss.”

Chris, whose mother is from Niue and his father from Samoa, signed up to train at Manukau Institute of Technology (MIT) with a scholarship from Māori and Pasifika Trades Training.

Hands-on experience

His hard work is already paying off. With help from the team at Ara, Chris recently secured an apprenticeship at Dickson Gray Electrical in Auckland while he finishes his study part-time.

The apprenticeship will be 6000 hours, which will take around three years.

Now well on his way to becoming qualified, Chris encourages others to consider learning a trade.

“It can be hard to take that first step, and to take the risk. But if you have even the slightest idea that you might enjoy being in a trade, I’d say do find out a bit more. Ask questions about how it can suit your lifestyle.”

He points out that he was still able to work while studying full-time last year in order to pay his living costs and rent for the flat he shares with friends, because he didn’t have classes every day.

“I know a lot of people who are scared to commit to something full time, but they don’t realise full-time trades study doesn’t take up every day of the week.”

‘There’s no harm in asking’

Chris also recommends looking for work experience while training.

Last year, to give himself the best chance of eventually getting an apprenticeship, Chris found a local electrician who was willing to let him help out with a few jobs.

“If you live in New Zealand it’s quite easy to find someone who knows a tradesperson you can approach – I found one through a friend of a friend.

“There’s no harm in asking; the worst-case scenario is they’re going to say no. But you can be prepared for a no. You just gotta keep asking, and someone will say yes.”

Chris believes having that experience in the field helped him stand out during the job interview process, and he was soon offered his apprenticeship at Dickson Gray Electrical.

“So far it’s been awesome. Every day is different. The only challenge is trying to remember stuff, because it’s different every day. If you learn about something and you don’t do it straight away, you kind of forget.”

Having taken steps to achieve his childhood dream, Chris says he especially loves the problem-solving aspects of the job, and the variety that comes with working in a trade.

“Plus, out of all my friends there was a sparky that was missing – everything else was covered.”