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.

Want to get qualified on time? Do this

Shannon Ngawharau

Keen to enjoy the money and mana that come with being qualified? With focus and dedication, MPTT alumni Shannon Ngawharau finished his construction apprenticeship in great time. Read on for tips on how you can finish your apprenticeship on time, too.

Most apprenticeships typically take around 3½ to 4½ years. But it isn’t just about the hours you put in. To get qualified, you need to show you have certain skills. That means if you’re motivated, you can finish faster – like Shannon.

Having previously served in the Royal New Zealand Navy, Shannon had leaned how to be disciplined. By working hard and focusing on ticking the right boxes, the 36-year-old completed his construction apprenticeship in around two years. If you’re thinking you could never find that kind of motivation, it might help to know that Shannon has been there too.

“I already did an electrical apprenticeship and that took me quite a long time – about 5½ years. So I know what it’s like to be unmotivated and I know what it’s like to be motivated as well.”

Speed isn’t everything, and it’s important to take the time you need to properly learn your trade. But by doing some of what Shannon did, you can help ensure you finish your apprenticeship in good time – so you can enjoy being a qualified tradie.

Having the goal of being a qualified builder helped Shannon stay focused on completing his apprenticeship.
Building speed

Although Shannon (Ngāti Ruanui) had previously trained as an electronic technician through the NZ Navy, when he signed up to learn construction he was new to the trade. In fact, he hadn’t worked with timber since woodwork class in high school.

After completing a pre-trades construction course at Unitec in 2015, Shannon began his apprenticeship in 2016. This involved signing a three-way contract between himself, industry training organisation BCITO, and his employer Your Home Construction, which specialises in high-end residential and light commercial work.

Having learned the theory of his trade during his pre-trades course, Shannon worked hard to show this knowledge in his paperwork. He also made a plan for what practical skills he’d need to get signed off when he met with his training advisor every three months.

“It was a combination of things that helped me get it done pretty fast. My boss had a wide scope of work available, so I kind of got to choose where I’d work.

“I planned all the practical units that I wanted to get signed off every three months, and worked on those skills before I met with my training advisor.”

Shannon’s boss Charles Lindsay, owner of Your Home Construction, says Shannon’s planning and determination quickly paid off.

“He approached getting qualified like a business, with a goal and a plan to achieve it. His paperwork was flawless. He had photos and everything. You’d be hard pressed to find another like him, I’ll tell you that much.

“I’ve said to all my other apprentices, if you do anything even close to what Shannon did, you’re going to pass with flying colours and get it done in good time.”

Shannon (left) with his boss Charles Lindsay, owner of Your Home Construction.
Constructing a career

From the start of his pre-trades course at Unitec, Shannon was determined to finish his apprenticeship and get qualified.

“I wanted to prove to myself that I could do it. Once I’d dedicated myself to the course, I knew I wanted to carry on and get my qualification.

“I worked with another guy who did the same course as me and he chose to just work as a labourer, but I went the other way. There was a little bit more work for me to get qualified, but it was always something I was going to do anyway. If you’re working in the industry, you might as well get something out of it at the same time.”

A trades qualification stays with you as you look for jobs or travel the world, Shannon points out.

“Once you have it, you can take it pretty much anywhere. You can go and work in Australia if you like. Your qualification is recognised in a lot of places.

“If I was just a labourer, then every time I got a new job I’d have to prove myself based on my work. But now that I have a qualification, I can back myself up with that, as well as showing them what I can do on the job.”

He encourages other trainees to focus on what they want for their long-term future.

“You just need to have the right attitude if you want to get qualified. You have to think about the end goal, not the short-term goal.

“Visualise that, because there are going to be times when you’re doing long hours or doing the same mundane job – carrying materials around site or whatever – and you just have to keep in mind what you want to get out of it.”

Charles says completing an apprenticeship and getting qualified is a huge improvement to a trainee’s life and career.

“You’ve got to look into your future and think about where you want to be in life. If you want to be a hammerhand, you’re going to plateau at one level for the rest of your life. But if you want to be the boss dog and earn big money, you’ve got to get your apprenticeship done and get qualified. So get your qualification done. Just do it.”

Before each meeting with his training advisor, Shannon planned the skills he wanted to get signed off and made sure he learned those skills on the job.
High rise

Now that he’s qualified, Shannon still works for Your Home Construction and received a pay rise when he finished his apprenticeship.

“At my age I’m just happy working for someone else. I’m currently finishing off a Diploma in Construction Management, so I’m kind of hoping to transition into project management down the track.”

Not having to worry about working towards his qualification anymore is a huge plus for Shannon.

“The big thing for me is that it takes the weight off my shoulders. Now I can relax and learn the craft more instead of having to think about my next meeting with my training advisor.”

There was no big change in how people treated him at work, mostly because his team assumed he was already qualified.

“Charles put me in charge of the sites I was working on anyway, even when I was still an apprentice. I think he knew what type of person I was, you know, and he had an idea that even though I was new to the trade, I wasn’t completely fresh because of my previous experience in the Navy.

“So once I did get qualified, the other people on site were like, ‘Oh true, we didn’t know you weren’t qualified’. They just assumed I was already a qualified builder because they didn’t think an apprentice would be running jobs.”

Shannon’s motivated attitude is what made him a great candidate to run jobs on site, says Charles.

“You can teach building skills, but you can’t train someone’s mindset to be keen. If someone’s not keen, you might get a really good builder out of them, but they’re not going to go that extra distance and push themselves so much.

“Most apprentices just ask, ‘what are we doing next?’ Whereas Shannon was always thinking forward, and that’s the hardest thing to find. A lot of people just go with the flow, but he always had a game plan of what to do next, and he’d even start making a list of materials we’d need for that job.”

Enthusiasm for the job is the main thing employers look for when hiring, says Charles.

“If someone’s keen they’re going to want to come to work every day, they’re going to want to work hard, and they’re going to want to learn. And that’s something Shannon’s had. He just wanted to get qualified and learn everything he could as fast as he could.”


How to finish your apprenticeship on time – or even faster

  • Make time for your theory work.

    As part of your assessment, you’ll need to show you understand the theory behind what you do. So don’t leave your paperwork until the last minute. Make time to do a bit of paperwork each week, so you stay on top of it and can remember what you learn.

  • Plan the practical work you need to get signed off.

    It’s up to your boss to make sure you learn the skills you need, but that doesn’t mean you can’t show initiative. Talk to your boss about the skills you need to get signed off, and how you might be able to do that before your next meeting with your training advisor. Don’t be shy – your boss will likely be impressed by your motivation.

  • Stick with your employer if you can.

    When you change jobs, you break your apprenticeship contract. Even though you can continue your apprenticeship with a new employer, it can take a few months before you sign the new contract. So by staying with one employer for your whole apprenticeship like Shannon did, you’re more likely to finish quickly. If you do need to change jobs along the way, make sure your new employer is happy to offer you an apprenticeship.

For more tips on getting qualified on time, see our blog on how to cross the finish line of your training.

On track for success

At just 18 years old, Ben Poutasi lost his father in a tragic car accident. As the eldest of six kids, he took on the role of providing for his family with a job at Burger King, before learning a trade by day and working at night. Now aged 20, Ben is an automotive apprentice with dreams of being his own boss.

For Ben Poutasi, learning a trade was about providing for his aiga (family).

After tragically losing his father shortly after finishing high school, Ben worked closing shifts at Burger King to help pay the bills.

Ben’s father had been a mechanic and a builder, and Ben decided to follow in his dad’s footsteps with his career.

“I thought I better get a trade under my belt, basically to help take care of my family.”

Since helping his mum provide for his five siblings was top of his priority list, Ben needed his training to lead him straight into paid work – something he says is a strength of learning a trade.

“With university you get a degree, but often no-one’s helping you get a job in that field you studied for. I see a lot of my friends with degrees just staying at home, playing on the games.

“Heaps of them end up working in something completely different to what they studied. I think getting a trade is better.”

Streets ahead

As an MPTT scholarship recipient, Ben not only had his course fees paid for, he had career coaching and help finding a job.

“When I found out I had the scholarship, I was still working at Burger King and I was going to try and find an apprenticeship and pay that off while working. I was going to skip the pre-trades course because I couldn’t afford it.”

Ben, who is Samoan, finished his Certificate in Automotive Engineering (Level 3) at Manukau Institute of Technology (MIT) in November 2017. With help from MPTT Navigator Travis Fenton, he was able to go straight into an apprenticeship at Rangitoto Motors.

“Travis told me Rangitoto Motors was looking for an apprentice – so I went there straight away, printed off my CV and gave it to the boss, and had an interview with him.”

Ben says Travis has been there with advice and support from the start.

“He’s helped me a lot. At first, I didn’t even know how to sign up for the scholarship or enrol for my course, so he helped me with that too. And finding an apprenticeship was pretty hard to do but, thanks to Travis, I found one.”

As an MPTT scholar, Ben also received $1000 to spend on tools when he got his apprenticeship. That helped him buy a tool box as well as some equipment he needs for the job.

He also earned a scholarship from MITO to cover the first year of his apprenticeship fees.

Track to success

Mike Atkinson, owner of Rangitoto Motors, says Ben is excelling as an apprentice because of his willingness to work hard and try new things.

“He’s probably one of the better ones (apprentices) I’ve ever come across,” says Mike. “He has no fear. It doesn’t matter how big or small the job, he’s just keen to do it and he’s keen to learn. He’s definitely a strong part of our team now.”

Mike says Ben’s work ethic, responsibility and maturity beyond his years mean he’ll go far in the automotive industry.

“I see potential for Ben. He could potentially take over from me one day – that’s the angle I’m pushing him towards.”

Ben with his employer Mike Atkinson, owner of Rangitoto Motors
Ben’s boss Mike Atkinson (left) says the industry is crying out for more young people like Ben.

Mike says he’s really pleased to see the work MPTT is doing to help build a qualified workforce in the automotive industry.

“We’re crying out for more skilled young people; it’s so hard to hire good mechanics these days. Anyone who’s helping to address that shortage has my full support.”

Family vehicle

Ben lives with his mum and siblings in their Mangere home and he says their support has been a huge help.

“We’re a close family. My mum’s been there for me the whole way.”

Ben says he’s been encouraging his siblings to consider learning a trade.

“I talk to my sister about it quite a bit. She wants to go to MIT in the future.”

One reason Ben recommends a career in the trades is for the variety of work – he never gets bored.

“It’s great not having to do the same thing over and over again. Every day is different. There are lots of different vehicles for a start, especially with new electric vehicles coming out.”

As a tradie, Ben loves that he gets to use his hands and move around as he works.

“I’m glad I’m not stuck in an office – I’d get bored sitting there all day!”

Staying the course

Completing a pre-trades course at MIT helped Ben prepare for the demands of an automotive workshop.

“They showed us the different parts of a vehicle, which was useful because I knew things like what brake pads were when I started. It was good to have that background knowledge.”

Since starting his apprenticeship, Ben has enjoyed building his skills on the job.

“The practical work is cool. I’ve learned a lot of stuff and it hasn’t even been a year yet.”

As an apprentice, Ben has the added challenge of theory work and assessments to complete.

“The paperwork can be pretty hard, but I’ll get there. All the answers are there so I just need to learn them.”

As an MPTT trainee, Ben will continue to get support right through his training – including advice and mentoring from his MPTT Navigator Travis, to help Ben accelerate in his career.

Thinking of learning a trade? Find out more about MPTT’s scholarships and see if you qualify.

Four types of jobs – which one leads to a career?

Job vs Apprenticeship
You know you need to get a job in the trades industry, but did you know there are different types of job contracts? The type of job you take on can be the difference between getting paid to build a career in your trade, and just making some cash.

The difference between job contracts is confusing for many trainees.

“At first I didn’t really understand the differences,” says MPTT trainee Toni Rhind. “I thought if I was working in my trade, it must count towards my apprenticeship.”

But it’s not as complicated as it sounds. There are basically four types of job contracts when you’re starting out in the trades:

1. An apprenticeship
2. A job that leads to an apprenticeship
3. A job that just pays the bills (e.g. being a labourer)
4. Working as a contractor

Read on to learn about the different types of contracts, and work out which one is right for you. And if you have questions about a job offer or contract, have a chat with your MPTT navigator.

YOUR BEST OPTION: An apprenticeship

If you want a long-lasting career in your trade, an apprenticeship is what you’re aiming for.

An apprenticeship is more than a job – you’ll be working towards your qualification. According to apprenticeship provider MITO, that means completing practical assessments at work to prove you can do certain tasks, as well as doing some off-job training in a classroom. When you’ve finished your apprenticeship, you’ll be qualified in your trade.

How do you know if you’re in an apprenticeship rather than just a job? Hayden Toomer from BCITO, which provides apprenticeships in building and construction, says an apprenticeship is a contract between three parties:

1. You, the trainee
2. Your employer
3. An apprenticeship provider, such as:

BCITO (building and construction)
MITO (automotive)
Competenz (butchery, refrigeration and air conditioning, welding and fabrication)
Skills (electrical, plumbing and gasfitting)
Connexis (infrastructure)
HITO (hairdressing)
Primary ITO (horticulture and landscaping)
ServiceIQ (hospitality)

“All three parties need to agree to it,” says Hayden. “If you’re starting an apprenticeship with us, BCITO will come out and visit you. We’ll run through the full process with the trainee, show them what’s involved, get all the contracts signed and arrange the payment of annual fees. If that hasn’t happened, there’s no apprenticeship.”

According to Hayden, you’ll have the best chance of scoring an apprenticeship if:

You’re up-front about what you want. “I believe when a young person meets a prospective employer, they need to tell them, ‘Look, I just finished a pre-trades course, I’m really keen to be involved in the construction industry and I want to complete my apprenticeship to become a qualified carpenter.’ It’s about the trainee being involved in their own future and being proactive.”

You work hard. “It’s about doing yourself a favour by turning up, working hard, having a good attitude and being a team player,” says Hayden.

You know you’re an apprentice when:
  • You have an agreement with both your employer and an apprenticeship provider.
  • You’ve paid a fee, or your employer has paid a fee, to the apprenticeship provider.
  • You’re working towards getting qualified. As you learn and practise new skills, you’ll record what you’ve done and your employer will sign off on it.
  • As well as working, you might attend classes at a polytechnic, such as Unitec or Manukau Institute of Technology (MIT).
  • You’ll be getting paid to learn.
  • You’ll be working towards your qualification.
  • Your employer will be actively helping you build your skills.
  • Once you’re qualified, you’ll be in high demand and can earn a lot more money.
Keep in mind:
  • Apprentices may get paid a bit less than labourers and hammerhands – but remember you’ll soon be earning a lot more when you’re qualified, says Hayden. “If you’re not in an apprenticeship, your pay rate may not increase over time, whereas with an apprenticeship you’ll increase the rate you’re paid as you learn more. Give up the slightly higher money now to get your apprenticeship, and once you’ve got your trade, you’ll get good money consistently.”
  • If you start an apprenticeship and then get offered another apprenticeship for a bit more pay, think twice before you change employers, says Hayden. “An apprenticeship is a contract, and by changing employers you’ll break that contract. Then you’ll probably need to go through another trial period with your new employer before continuing your apprenticeship.”
Case Study: Waru Pairama
With his solid work readiness skills, Waru managed to land an apprenticeship after just a month of working for KB Construction. “I think it was just, you know, being organised,” says Waru. “I had my drivers licence, I had a car, I had good references – my manager and rugby league coach backed me and said I had a good attitude. It was about ticking all the boxes.”

Scholarship award ceremony

A GOOD OPTION: A job that leads to an apprenticeship

When an employer takes you on as an apprentice, they’re investing time and money in training you. So before they commit to your apprenticeship, they’ll often want you to complete a trial period.

During your trial, you’ll be employed and paid by the company, but you won’t be working towards your qualification yet. After a set amount of time that you agree on with your employer (such as 90 days), you’ll start the apprenticeship.

Hayden says this is a good way to get started.

“I think the hardest thing is to get a job in the industry. Once you’ve got a job, whether or not you start your apprenticeship immediately or six months or 12 months down the track, it’s all valuable learning.”

However, make sure your employer knows you want to become an apprentice, and ask them how you can get there.

“You need to set the stage right at the start, so the employer knows they’re not just hiring a hammerhand or a labourer,” says Hayden.

You know your job is leading to an apprenticeship when:
  • You’ve talked to your employer and agreed on a trial period before your apprenticeship starts. It’s a good idea to ask to get it in writing, to make sure you’re on the same page.
  • The company has had apprentices before (unless it’s a small company and you’ll be their first apprentice). This shows they have a process in place for getting their workers qualified.
  • You can make sure you like your boss and your team before you commit to an apprenticeship.
  • You can start gaining on-the-job experience and getting paid immediately.
  • You know what you need to do to move into an apprenticeship.
Keep in mind:
  • It’s up to you to let your employer know you’d like an apprenticeship.
  • There’s no perfect time to start an apprenticeship so just begin as soon as you can, says Hayden. “A lot of people procrastinate and say ‘I’ll get onto my apprenticeship later; I’m not ready to do it yet; I’m not sure if I really want to do this’. A year or two later I see them and they’re still doing the same job, and they could have been halfway through their apprenticeship.”
Case Study: Toni Rhind
When Toni started working for Ray Smith Engineering, she made sure her boss knew she wanted to eventually get qualified. “An apprenticeship was something I brought up with my employer, because I thought it would be beneficial to work towards getting qualified. He said, ‘We’ll see how you go and if you’re good enough, we’ll look at an apprenticeship when you finish your course’.” Toni is due to finish her mechanical engineering course in June next year, and in the meantime is working hard to earn her apprenticeship.
TRY TO AVOID: A job that just pays the bills

This is where you’re employed by a company, but there’s no plan to get you into an apprenticeship – such as being hired as a labourer or hammerhand.

While you might take one of these jobs temporarily, remember you need to work towards getting qualified if you want a career in your trade rather than just a job.

It can be tempting to get a job as a labourer or hammerhand when you’ve got bills to pay. With the current demand for workers, it’s relatively easy to find a job, and you might even get a good hourly rate.

But even though the pay seems good now, you’re unlikely to get much of a pay rise without getting qualified – and that means getting an apprenticeship.

You know your job won’t lead to an apprenticeship if:

  • There’s no plan for you to have a conversation about an apprenticeship with your boss, such as after a trial period.
  • You’ve talked to your employer and they said they can’t offer you an apprenticeship.


  • You get paid for the work you do.
  • You can put the job on your CV to help show your work readiness and practical skills.

Keep in mind:

  • Even though you might get a higher hourly rate as a labourer than you would in an apprenticeship, getting qualified will mean you can earn much more in the future.
  • To build a lasting and rewarding career in the trades you need to get qualified, which means getting an apprenticeship.
  • Right now, the construction boom makes it easier for less skilled workers to get a job and a good hourly rate. But if the demand for labour drops, those who aren’t qualified yet will find it much harder to get well-paid work.
Case Study: Jaxon Kuvarji
Jaxon worked in the automotive industry for 10 years before he decided to get qualified, and wishes he’d made the move sooner. “Don’t leave it too late like I did. I’ve got friends who are at the same stage as me now in their career, but they’re six or seven years younger than me. If I’d done my qualification when I was their age, I’d be so much more set, says Jaxon, who has now completed his apprenticeship.

GET ADVICE IF YOU ARE: Working as a contractor

If you’re just starting out, you should get advice before taking on this option. As a contractor, you’re actually self-employed. So, even though you’re getting paid to work for a company and might even be able to get an apprenticeship (where you have a contract with both the company you work for and an apprenticeship provider), you’ll need to pay your own taxes and cover your own costs.

Running your own business is a whole other skill set, so while you’re getting qualified in your trade, having an employment contract is better than being a contractor. That way, you can focus on building your trades skills while your employer takes care of the business side of things.

As a contractor, you also won’t necessarily get the sick pay and annual leave that employees are entitled to.

Having said that, many apprentices do start out as contractors. If you’re offered an apprenticeship as a contractor, you’ll still be working towards your qualification – but you should get advice on how to manage your work and pay your taxes. As a start, talk to your MPTT navigator – they’ll be able to help you find the information you need and answer your questions.

Legally, a contractor can usually decide when they work and how they complete a job. So, if you’re a contractor but the company you work for decides the hours you work and supervises you, and you’re doing ongoing work for them (rather than a one-off project), talk to your MPTT navigator. They can give you advice on what you’re entitled to, and help you form a plan to speak with your boss about upgrading to an employment contract.

You know you’re working as a contractor if:

  • The company isn’t paying tax for you. Check your pay slip – if the company is paying tax on your behalf (called PAYE or withholding tax), that information should be on your pay slip.
  • If you’re sick or need a day off, you don’t get paid.
  • There’s no guarantee that you’ll be doing ongoing work for the company.

Find out more about the differences between an employee and a contractor.


  • Once you have your qualification, you might be able to charge a higher rate as a contractor and earn more than as an employee.

Keep in mind:

  • Being self-employed is a big learning curve, so it’s best to get advice when you’re starting out – such as talking to your MPTT navigator.
  • Being a contractor is a lot of responsibility. For example, you’ll need to work out how much tax to pay the government and make sure you pay it on time, or hire an accountant to do this for you.
  • Because you’re not employed by the company, you might not get sick leave or holiday pay.

Need advice about a job contract? Get in touch with your MPTT navigator.

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.