Suit to Sparky – Ventia supports people to new places

MPTT alumni Christine Swepson onsite at the Glenbrook Steel Mill where she is working as an electrical apprentice
Christine Swepson has built a clear vision for her place in the world, and Ventia is helping her make it a reality.

Christine, from the village of Palauli, Vailoa, in Samoa, started her working life as a banker and at a corporate in the energy sector. She was in the business world and on her way to earning a Bachelor’s degree. But then, she noticed a new pathway.

“Seeing more females joining the trades industry, I wanted to be part of it. I knew that as an electrical tradesperson, I’d always have job security, the chance to use my brain and the ability to be hands-on without big physical burden. So, that’s the route I took.”

Christine’s first step was pre-trades study at Manukau Institute of Technology, with the support of a Māori and Pasifika Trades Training scholarship.

Navigators help you find your path

“The MPTT navigators were really helpful when I was at MIT,” she explains. They encouraged her to build on her skills and take initiative. And she did.

“I did some door-knocking, and I sent out a lot of emails with my CV. I approached local companies and also some bigger-sized companies. I didn’t really get a lot of traction until I came across Ventia. They were prepared to take on eight apprentices! I’m so thankful I was one of them.”

Christine is now in the third year of her Electrical apprenticeship and is delighted to be a Ventia employee. She says the support and culture is outstanding.

Christine with her manager Edward Mtakwa at the Glenbrook site

Christine with her manager Edward Mtakwa at the Glenbrook site

“They work really hard to look after people and create opportunities for support. I report to the city office, and they are always offering events, catch-ups and other opportunities to the team, even if you’re working out on a site. And Christine has moved around a number of exciting projects.

Ventia encouraged Christine to explore the industrial sector in her electrical career. This saw her placed on projects such as the City Rail Link and Glenbrook Steel Mill. Many young women like Christine aren’t aware of the range of paths in industry, so Ventia’s balanced guidance is vital – especially in areas where there’s a perceived male dominance.

Christine has almost completed her Level 4 Electrical Trade apprenticeship with Connexis and is specialising in high voltage electrical work. She recommends that anyone who’s interested make it a mission to find out more. You can read about the opportunities and culture at Ventia here

Seek employers who empower you

“Definitely ask around. If you’re unsure if the trades are something you want to do, find people to ask. Give your local tradie a call, check out Facebook or Instagram and get in touch with MPTT.”

The approach has certainly worked for Christine, and she’s ready to keep building on it. Once she’s qualified, she knows she’ll have a whole lot more opportunities.

I’m very happy at Ventia and don’t see myself moving anytime soon. But perhaps one day, I’ll build on my studies and eventually move into a senior management role at a big company – perhaps even overseas or in Australia.

The world will certainly be Christine’s oyster as a qualified tradie, but she is also very happy to have found her place, for now, at home with Ventia.

Interested in the Electrical Trade. Learn more about the benefits of a Māori and Pasifika Trades Training Scholarship, apply here.

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.

Oceania Careers Academy celebrates heritage and futures

Oceania Careers Academy — OCA —  is on a mission to see more young Pacific people in sustained, higher-paid employment with skills sought after by industry. And it has a unique way of delivering this. OCA is run by Pasifika for Pasifika, so it connects with learners in a style that truly resonates. It means OCA trainees love learning about the trades and setting themselves up for the future, even when they face challenges along the way.  

Care and culture change everything

OCA specialises in training people for the construction industry because they see this as a way to grow prosperity in Pasifika families. They put family and Pasifika values at the heart of everything and wrap around each learner with the support they need.

Tony Atina, Campus Director, says one of the reasons he came to work at OCA is because of the pastoral support. Tony is of Samoan descent and was born and raised in Auckland. He worked in industry as a builder for 17 years, with his own business for 10 years. He has also worked extensively in training development. He says OCA’s approach is very different to what he’s come across before.

“I’ve seen the pastoral support label used elsewhere, but it can mean different things. At OCA, it starts with the family – family involvement – whānau ora assistance; it’s about the whole whānau.”

Our Navigators and tutors give both emotional and practical support. It’s vital we reduce barriers and impediments to our people succeeding, and transport is one of them. Getting to the course can be hard.

“Our Navigators provide transport solutions eg: sort out Hop cards and even leave a couple of hours early in the morning to collect students. Each day they’re out on the road to help people get to their courses. The chats that they have in the van can be quite personal, and that’s important.”

Salesi Vea is studying Level 3 Carpentry at OCA through an MPTT scholarship and is grateful for the support.

He says, “I had a rough patch of my life. I surrounded myself with the wrong people. I got a second chance with OCA. Over time I’ve come to like it – I love it here. The stuff that the tutors do for us is absolutely over the top.

You just know it’s a family; it’s not just a random group of people learning things individually; we are all here as a team and helping each other.”

Flexibility helps overcome barriers

Helping Pasifika students manage their commitments and overcome barriers to studies is top of mind at OCA. Along with pastoral care, they also ensure flexibility in the programme. Tony explains, 

“Not all students can attend a course every day – childcare, shift work etc., can make it difficult. For us, it’s about allowing flexibility but being mindful that there is a programme to complete.”

“Blended learning means people can work but cross reference what they’re doing back into the programme – so if they’re covering things in their work, it can contribute to practical exercises. Tutors can come on-site to do learning assessments. The additional option is that learners can come after hours to do catch-ups.”

Similarly, the tutors ensure that they deliver content and learning so that it’s easy to understand and engages people.

Folototo Peni Motunuu has come from Samoa to complete her Level 3 in Carpentry. She says, “I really enjoyed learning how to make a chair and a toolbox.”

Folototo said she’s grateful for all the help her tutors have given her, and she’s found friends there who support her too.

Praetorian Parkinson, Ngāti Paoa and Ngāpuhi, is also completing his pre-trades Level 3 in Carpentry at Oceania Career Academy and says the teaching style makes a difference.

“I like the way they don’t just bark orders. If you don’t understand something, you can just ask for clarification. You don’t have to sit there and try to figure it out yourself only to fail and have to do it all over again.”

Cultural values lead

As well as going the extra mile for its ākonga, OCA embeds Māori and Pasifika traditions and values.

Tony explains, “We start each day with a prayer and a toolbox meeting. This sets the scene for the day, and it carries into the classroom. We also have mentors around to welcome people and check in where they need it.

“Sometimes people have things going on in their lives before they reach the course in the morning, and this way, someone is there to help them with anything they may need.”

Prae says this care makes a huge difference.

They care about your culture, Māori, or Pasifika. They want to help you and push you through to where you want to be in life.”

Praetorian Parkinson

Salesi says that along with the main trades content, they have lots of opportunities to develop their values and understand their place in the world.

“On Wednesdays, we have the navigation programme. We just started a new leadership piece, which is about self-leadership and what it takes to become a leader on and off the worksite.”

The stats show success

The power of nurturing culture shows as OCA graduates flourish. Since 2015, more than 300 students have successfully completed OCA programmes, and of those, 71% are now working in the industry, and 17% have gone on to higher-level studies.

Harris Laulu, who is a proud Samoan is also studying Level 3 Carpentry. He says it’s about making the most of what OCA offers. “My advice is to make the most of the support.

If you’re studying on the MPTT scholarship, take all the help you can get because it’s coming from people that really want to help you – genuinely.

Salesi agrees and is excited about his future. “If everything goes to plan, I see myself running my own job site”.

“If you’re really driven, just go for it. Take that opportunity.”

Graduation is another step forward

OCA is setting its students up to thrive. Once they complete their pre-trades, their stories are o only just getting started. Finding apprenticeships unlocks a whole new realm of possibilities.

When trainees graduate, there’s a huge flow on effect. MPTT ensures they have a tool kit, making the transition to employment easier. And when they get into work and become qualified, the real change happens. They can contribute to their families and society. They learn how to become self-employed businesspeople; they build financial literacy and capability,” explains Tony. He’s proud that OCA empowers them to do this.

Tony is excited about how OCA is responding to the changing working environment while also keeping its unique and powerful mix of support for learners.

“We’re ensuring that the organisation continuously evolves its approach while retaining the values of what we have. Our training keeps work-based learning at its heart, and we make good changes that are relevant to industry so they can gain relevant skills that they’ll need.

Harris sums up, “By learning the trades, you get to feel free because it’s going to be a good future, and you can use your skills to help other people.”

MPTT Navigators help students reach their destination

Makahn with some of her MPTT students
All MPTT students have the support of an MPTT navigator, which not only sets our programme apart but also sets MPTT students apart when they start work. Our Navigators mentor students every step of the way through their studies so they graduate work-ready and poised to thrive.

We spoke with Navigator Makahn Warren-Chapman to hear more about what MPTT Navigators do. Makahn, who is Samoan, Māori (Ngāti Tūwharetoa, Te Whakatōhea, Te Whānau a Apanui, Ngāi Te Rangi) and Irish, loves what she does. She sees her work as a way to give back to her community in South Auckland, helping people build new futures for themselves.

“In a nutshell, I hold a mentor role for students who are studying to become tradespeople. I’m here to ensure that they’re ready to leave their studies work-ready and they can start their careers,” says Makahn.

“The scope of support that MPTT offers through Navigators like me is quite wide. We’re there for students when they first start their pre-trades training, through to when they graduate, as they seek employment and find a placement in their chosen trade. We give face-to-face support, one on one meetings, and group workshops.”

A major goal of MPTT is to nurture more Māori and Pasifika into leadership positions, and this means setting them up well from the beginning. It includes helping people build confidence and know how to perform at their best.

Navigators walk alongside students

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

“We offer specific support at different times during people’s study. For example, in the first part of the year, we start by getting to know the MPTT ākonga, what their goals are, and how we can make that happen by building individual pathways.”

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.”

Navigators help find and fix

Navigators are ready to advocate for ākonga in whatever way matters most.

“Sometimes people struggle just to put food on the table. So, we can connect them to food banks or food parcels.” Makahn says she’s also helped students understand what support options they might have for things such as devices.

“There are a few schemes that can help students with devices. We support ākonga to get their application for those and fill them out. We also help push their applications forward. We know that a lot of the time, our Māori and Pasifika students are kind of left on the outskirts and don’t know how to advocate for themselves. So, we do a lot of that.”

There’s one piece of advice she gives to every Māori and Pasifika student.

“Don’t be scared to ask for the support that you need. Some of us can be humble, and we tend to shy away from asking for help. But that help is available. And not only that, but providing support to MPTT students is our whole purpose as Navigators.

Makahn with other members of the MPTT Navigation team at a workshop held on Unitec’s campus

Plenty of pathways to explore

Makahn says an important part of her work is raising awareness of what potential pathways are available. Trades training can unlock a huge range of options.

“There are so many opportunities within the industry for Māori and Pasifika – more than people might realise.

“Some people have the idea that studying trades leads to only specific roles such as becoming a sparky or mechanic, but there are so many different pathways that open up. We work hard to help students gain awareness about all the career options training makes them eligible for.”

When students are ready to start work, the Navigators can help guide them through the process of gaining employment. Navigators act as a link between training institutes, students, and industry so they understand where job opportunities are and can help with placements.

Makahn says it’s important to consider the fit between the trainee and the employer. Navigators look at the culture of the workplace, what kind of support is offered, apprenticeship pathways and much more.

Once there’s a job offer, Navigators can help explain what it means. They can talk through how it might compare and expectations. This can give both ākonga and their whānau reassurance about their direction.

But the support doesn’t stop there. Navigators stay in touch as people settle into their positions, and graduates remain part of the Māori and Pasifika Trades Training community. There’s always useful information, opportunities, development and help on hand.  

Adventure awaits the ambitious

“One of the things I’d like for Māori and Pasifika people to know is that there is just so much out there. If they’re willing to do a little digging to create networks with others and maybe even step out of their comfort zone, they’ll find the opportunities they want.

“As a profession, the trades are evolving so quickly, and there are so many different roles and responsibilities within each area. It’s not an industry that’s stagnant – it’s always growing.”

And that’s why Makahn wants to see more trainees join the MPTT programme, to help them gain a qualification and build a career that will give them a stable and rewarding future.

Māori and Pasifika helping to forge a legacy at D&H Steel

D&H Steel team
What do Puhinui Train Station, Auckland University, Costco in Westgate, and MIT all have in common? MPTT graduates have helped build them as part of the team at D&H Steel.

D&H Steel is New Zealand’s largest fabricator and has a reputation as an industry leader that sets a standard for quality. The company has long prided itself on its commitment to family, equal opportunity and diversity. 

D&H Steel first sought a relationship with MPTT six years ago as a partner for its growth plans. Once a small family company, the team is now a ‘big family’ company.

It has over 250 employees, and MPTT people have stuck with them from the moment they joined as trainees. Better yet, there’s room for more!

Steel is a solid career choice

Cameron Rogers is the workshop manager at D&H Steel and says Māori and Pasifika Trades Training (MPTT) aligns well with their company’s values. He also explained why there is so much opportunity for Māori and Pāsifika in the industry. 

“When you work in steel, you’ve got a job for life. Unlike some other types of construction, you’re part of the whole process in steel. 

“You may choose to start right back in manufacture, or you can be involved in the fabricating and welding. And that’s just in the workshop. You can also go onsite and work with the cranes to erect buildings. 

“On the office side, there’s computer design of the structures. We have machine operators on the floor, right up to supervisory and management roles.  

“There’s an opportunity to specialise in the area you most enjoy or to move around and learn all parts of the industry. This is particularly the case in D&H Steel because of our size.

Cameron Rogers
Cameron Rogers, Workshop Manager at D&H Steel

Relationships are built to last

“We’re like a big family. We don’t have an HR department because every supervisor gets to know their team and takes responsibility for them. The relationships we build last generations.

In fact, we actually have quite a few father and son pairs. Three of the first MPTT trainees we met are still working here, along with more we’ve employed over the years. 

Right now, there are a bunch of MPTT tradies who are part of our team. They all completed their pre-trades in Mechanical Engineering (or similar) at Unitec. Kathryn Billing has been working in the trade for a year and is now qualified with her welding ticket. Jacob Broad and Junior Faamausilis are both Fabrication apprentices working towards certification through ATNZ. Valusaga Iopu has successfully completed his certification in Fabrication.

Cameron says D&H Steel is particularly good at creating pathways for those who want to learn and achieve their goals through hard work and focus. Importantly, the company aims to take at least four more people into apprenticeships each year.

“Apprentices here are not left to make their way with periodic check-ins. Instead, they get support throughout their hours. They also pick up a number of other industry certifications along the way to their fabrication qualification”.

MPTT is part of the family

MPTT Navigators play a special role at D&H Steel, says Cameron. Tu Nu’ualiti’ia was one of the first navigators we worked with, and he’s continued to do so in his role at Unitec, advocating for Māori and Pasifika Trades Training. 

“We’re pleased to count the navigators as part of our family. They’re dedicated to helping MPTT trainees overcome any barriers they might face and things that pop up in life,” says Cameron.

Dean Pouwhare, D&H Steel Operations Manager and Director, likes seeing more Māori and Pasifika enter the industry. He sees MPTT as playing a vital role in this. 

“The sector presents a great opportunity and a solid career path. Bringing in new talent through MPTT  is helping to futureproof the structural steel industry and build its diversity. And trainees get to work alongside highly skilled people with long experience to share. 

The future is strong

D&H Steel’s plant is state of the art. They were first introduced to MPTT by Hawkins with whom they have a long and successful relationship. The company’s focus on innovation and performance sees them working not only with Hawkins but also Naylor Love, Haydn and Rollett, Fletcher and Macrennie Construction on some of New Zealand’s biggest projects and most critical buildings.

The team is currently working on one of New Zealand’s largest warehouses and a significant roof structure, which will cap a film studio. On the shop floor, welders are constructing pieces for an elevated running track that will sweep above a new sportsfield in the city’s heart. They’ve been involved in constructing some of our newest hospitals. You’ve probably even swept over one of their distinctive bridges.

D&H Steel is literally changing the shape of Auckland and its skyline. Years from now, its work will still be lifting our city to new heights. Everyone who is part of the team is truly forging a proud legacy.  

Find out more about MPTTs scholarship programme in Mechanical Engineering and where to study.

Smart choice of carpentry pays off for Sosaia

Sosaia Kaloni was drawn to construction to give his family better financial support. Now, at 24 years old, Sosaia has a great job with a leading company and is looking forward to becoming a qualified carpenter. He says OCA and MPTT Navigators have been critical to his success. His little brother would agree.

The Kaloni family is from the village of Kolovai in Tonga. Sosaia and his brother grew up in Otara, South Auckland. When his parents were too sick to work, he left school to start earning. Unfortunately, he found himself doing factory and warehouse work where the money was just never enough. When he saw his little brother was going to leave school to do the same thing, he knew it was time to make a smart choice. Together, they embarked on training for construction with an MPTT scholarship at Oceania Careers Academy – OCA.

Oceania Career Academy (OCA) has been providing Pasifika and South Auckland youth with pathways into the building industry since 2015. OCA has the ultimate goal of helping Pasifika families thrive financially, and this is what’s happened for Sosaia, his brother and the Kaloni whānau. 

“As soon as I started looking at the trades, I saw so much opportunity. And it was easy — not really easy, but enjoyable. I wish I had done it straight after school,” says Sosaia.

High grit required

“I was working while I did my training, so it was hard to fit in the study. Sometimes I needed to leave the class a bit early to get to work, but I would talk through it with the tutors. They were supportive as long as I did my work before I had to go. They’re pretty helpful like that.”

When Covid struck, a little extra support was especially important. Sosaia said MPTT and the OCA tutors made all the difference.

“During the lockdown, we lost our jobs. And it was hard trying to look for work at that time. So, I let them know about it, and they helped a lot. They’d check in on how we were at home, and they even dropped off some shopping for us.

“MPTT Navigators and OCA Tutors make everything easier. They care about you in class but also outside of class. They keep in touch.

“Once we began at our new job, we were supplied with all the tools we needed to get going through OCA, like basic hand tools, belts, and some power tools like nail guns.” 

During his training, Sosaia found his passion for carpentry.

“I just enjoy being so hands-on, and it also keeps your mind going. I love calculating the cut, cutting it and then putting it all together. There’s always something new, and there are always fresh challenges.”

Learning leads to earning

McConnell Dowell was pleased to give Sosaia and his brother a shot to join their team and learn their trade.

“I’m just starting with McConnell. They’re so easy to work with. Ever since we started, they’ve made our job easier. Everyone here is so onto it. It’s great to be around because you’ve just got to be on your toes.”

Sosaia will soon be through his trial period and onto the next step of starting his apprenticeship so that he can become a qualified carpenter.

“The best thing about doing my apprenticeship will just be the knowledge. It will make the stuff I do easier. Although being qualified comes with more responsibility, I’m ready for the challenge.”

Sosaia with his foreman
Sosaia with his current foreman at McConnell Dowell, Simon Ikiua

The whānau is freed from worries

Sosaia has certainly proven he’s ready to step up. He’s rightly proud and is enjoying the rewards of his new career as a carpenter.

“I found something stable compared to what I used to have. I’m able to fully provide for my family now. Mum and Dad don’t have to worry about anything.”

He’d like to stay with McConnell Dowell for a long time. But he also knows that having his qualification gives him lots of options.

“Maybe I could set up my own business with my brother one day.”

For now, Sosaia is just grateful for the decision he made to get into the trades, the support he received and the future he’s building for himself. He says anyone thinking about the trades should make the most of the opportunity and support from MPTT and OCA.

“You’ve just got to put yourself all in – 100%. And everything you put in will be paid back to you.”

‘We were chiefs – we’re a people of leaders’

After more than 47 years in the trades industry, Mark Katterns has some advice for new trainees. Get help from a mentor, show up to work on time – and live with your mum. Find out how the project director at Hawkins climbed the career ladder in his trade, and how you can do it too.

Mark Katterns believes it’s important to dream big. It’s not about just getting a job – it’s about becoming a leader in your industry.

But how? He says the keys are to commit to your mahi and find someone to look up to who can show you the way forward.

“Don’t do what I did and get into a flat with the boys, ‘cos you’ll end up getting into trouble,” he jokes. “You should stay at home with your mum. Live there for as long as possible.”

On a more serious note, Mark (Nga Puhi, Ngati Kawa) says Māori and Pasifika are often natural leaders but trainees need a mentor, like the MPTT navigators, who can guide them towards those leadership roles.

“When Māori and Pasifika get confident in what we do, you can’t stop us. That’s why we were chiefs. We’re a people of leaders.”

Leading the way

Mark, who now directs and manages large projects for construction giant Hawkins, credits his mum as being his first mentor.

As a young teenager growing up in Waitangi, his only career plans were to follow in the footsteps of most people he knew.

“I thought I’d work at the freezing works in Moerewa in the Far North, or end up working in forestry with my uncles and cousins.”

In the meantime, Mark had fallen in with a wayward crowd and was getting up to mischief. But when he turned 15, his mum intervened. She put him on a bus to Auckland to learn a trade through the Māori Affairs Trade Training scheme, in which the MPTT programme has its roots.

“Having a role model is so important. I was the oldest son and my mum saw something in me, so she was my mentor to start with. It’s important to have someone to look up to, because they will show you the way.”

Mentors, such as MPTT’s navigators, help trainees get more confident with finding a job and can show them the way forward when they’re not sure what to do next, says Mark.

“When Māori and Pasifika go for our first job interview, we tend to be a bit whakamā (ashamed or embarrassed). But a mentor will help you through that process and speak up for you. They’ll help you get to that next level when you’re not sure how to move forward.

“We want every MPTT trainee to be a leader and be confident enough to be out there inspiring other youngsters one day.”

Just in time

Once he got started in the construction industry, Mark found other mentors along the way.

One of those people was Gil Davies, who worked as a project manager at Hawkins. He taught Mark another important key to success – showing up to work on time.

“He used to come around in the morning and wake us up for work. He’d pull us out of bed and take us to the job site because he believed in us. I hooked onto this guy because he could see what I was about. Trainees who commit to showing up to work on time will stand out and be noticed by the leaders,” says Mark.

“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.”

Mark Katterns inspiring the new group of trainees for 2019 inside the Te Noho Kotahitanga Marae at Unitec

Team effort

At age 19, Mark joined Hawkins as a carpenter and began to work his way up.

Marriage and starting a family added to his motivation to succeed, and the company soon recognised his hard work and supported him to take on site management roles.

He has since been involved in projects such as the award-winning Auckland Art Gallery, the Auckland War Memorial Museum atrium, and the $109 million redevelopment of Middlemore Hospital.

But even as a project director who isn’t ‘on the tools’, Mark prefers being on site to working at a computer.

“I love my job because I still get to have that contact with the tradies. Being on site is like being on a marae because it’s a big collection of people – a team working together to build something.”

Mark says what drives him now is a passion to be a mentor for the current generation of Māori and Pasifika tradies.

He helped spearhead a mentoring programme for Māori and Pasifika at Hawkins, which provides opportunities for career development and learning new skills.

“Once you’re hooked into a trade, we get you a mentor. That’s what I needed when I was young. At Hawkins, we call those mentors ‘uncles’ and ‘aunties’.”

So far, Hawkins has taken on 78 Māori and Pasifika trainees. Of those, 45% are from the MPTT programme and 17% are women – a relatively high percentage in the traditionally male-dominated industry.

For Mark, the mentoring programme is a way to give back and pass on some of the opportunities he received when he got started in the trades.

“I didn’t get here because of myself,” says Mark. “If I didn’t have a mentor, I wouldn’t be where I am today.”

Supporting more Māori and Pasifika women into the trades – at an MPTT celebration event in July 2018