MPTT helps Māori and Pasifika become leaders in the trades industry. As well as paying your course fees, we’ll give you one-on-one mentoring to grow your career, and help you find work in your chosen trade.
If you’re Māori or Pasifika and aged 16-40, you could qualify for our scholarships. Let us know you’re interested by filling out this form, and we’ll be in touch.
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.”
“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 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.
Matty and Percy have set themselves up for bright futures by training as electricians. They say that the mix of theory and on-the-job learning is both challenging and satisfying. But learning from those experienced in the industry is teaching them valuable tips. The pair are already able to help out their whānau with their new skills.
MPTT helped the two take up trades training
Percy King, Te Arawa, knew he’d need something to fall back on when his professional sporting career came to an end. Being an electrician was the trade that had always appealed most to him. Getting a scholarship through Māori and Pasifika Trades Training helped seal the deal.
“Although an electrician’s apprenticeship is one of the harder ones, it’s worth it for me,” he says.
“I’ll be the first sparky in the family and in the community. So a lot of my family that have homes can call me so they can get stuff done such as power outages.”
Matty also wanted to get into a trade somehow, and he heard about MPTT’s support for Māori and Pasifika learners. A scholarship covered his fees, and when he started studying his pre-trade, he realised electrical work was something he was genuinely interested in.
“It was a one-year pre-trade course at Manukau Institute of Technology: Electrical Engineering Theory Level 3. The benefit is that you do a lot of the theory upfront, so when you get into your apprenticeship you start further ahead.”
Help starting in work
When they completed their study, MPTT helped them get ready to earn. MPTT offers workshops and skills for things like job searches and cover letters. These graduates have both found great apprenticeships to start as soon as they finished their pre-trade course. Percy is working with JB Electrical and Matty with Laser Electrical.
“MPTT gave me a tools grant, so I had what I needed to get started. It made such a difference right away – especially having my own set of power tools to take to the job,” explains Percy.
Putting theory into practice was powerful
Both Percy and Matty found that taking up the tools allowed them to connect everything they’d learned. But there are plenty of tricks they’re learning from the more experienced tradies.
Percy, who is in his second year with MB Electrical says even things that seemed quite straightforward make so much more sense on the job. “Knowing about testing and fault finding… it’s just so important. And it’s worth perfecting the basics early such as stripping cable and running cable.
He says he’s had good advice from mentors in his apprenticeship.
“I was told, don’t worry about speed at the start; the main thing is getting it right. I’d rather you be slow and right than fast and wrong. Don’t feel pressured to rush.”
Matty agrees. And he’s found that in his apprenticeship with Laser Electrical, you never stop learning.
“When you start, you can think a certain way, but if you’re open-minded, willing to learn and just take stuff on board you can build your skills a lot faster.
“The experienced ones have always got some way to sort things. If there’s any problem, they can show you a technique new technique or trick.”
Once Matty and Percy complete their apprenticeships, they’ll be fully qualified by ETCO and can eventually set up their own businesses. But both are keen to spend the next few years learning and getting experience with different types of work.
“What I’m doing at the moment is new builds, which are quite straightforward. You’re pretty much just making holes in the house frames and then running out cables. When you go to like houses that already built, and you need to start with fault-finding, it’s a different story,” says Matty.
I’m looking to jump to more maintenance work now for a bit of that experience, and then I’d also like to do a commercial project for that experience.
I feel like you need to be able to come across anything and be confident that you can kind of deal with it.”
As well as being excited about their career prospects, these apprentices value the sense of purpose and value. They say MPTT has played a big part in this.
When we started at MIT, Makahn Warren-Chapman, an MPTT navigator introduced herself. There was a waananga where we talked about belonging and how a trade would enable us to give back to our communities and whānau, explains Percy.
The two recommend their profession to others and have some practical advice.
Percy says, “If you’re doing a pre-trade for three days a week, spend your other days looking for work rather than having a four-day weekend. If you’re working while you study, you get to apply what you’re learning immediately and put it into context.
Matty says, “Being like there’s a lot of people in this industry that have a lot of experience; it’s great to learn from them.”
No images of Matty were available at the time of publishing.
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.”
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.”
Vosa Pitasini started out water blasting, but ended up learning about refrigeration and air conditioning on the job. Before long, he’d built up valuable knowledge and skills in the trade. The only problem? He had no qualifications to back it up. Find out how Vosa is planning to turn his practical skills into legitimate qualifications, which he’ll then be able to use to start his own business.
For Vosa Pitasini, getting into the refrigeration and air conditioning trade was a case of being in the right place at the right time.
He’d been water blasting for a small business called Man and Machine Company Care, when his boss picked up some work with air con units. Vosa started helping out with the basics, like changing and cleaning filters.
“We were proactive about our work and if we noticed a job that needed to be done, we put it in our report. And so we just kept getting more work while we were on site. Slowly, our clients gave all their air con work to us.”
As the business grew, they hired experienced tradies, who taught Vosa more skills. Eventually, he was fully focused on the refrigeration and air con side of the business.
“I got to the stage where I could do it by myself. I had my own van and I did my own work. The problem was, I didn’t have any qualifications.”
The 36-year-old father of three has now started taking steps to get official recognition for his skills, which would open up his career options.
“As I’ve gone along, I’ve realised that it’s better that I go and get my papers now, before I get too old. I know what I’m doing but I’ve just been wandering around without any qualifications.”
Vosa’s first step was to enrol in a pre-trades course at Manukau Institute of Technology, supported by an MPTT scholarship.
“The course was expensive, so the financial support from MPTT was a big, big help,” he says.
While completing the course in 2020, he heard about another pathway to getting qualified. Called the Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL) programme, it recognises relevant experience, along with skills and knowledge gained through training, work experience and life experience.
Getting his skills certified through RPL would mean Vosa could get qualified without doing an apprenticeship. Instead, his training organisation Competenz would formally assess the skills he’s already learned and, if the assessor is satisfied he meets all the requirements, award him a qualification.
Vosa says this is a better option for him than an apprenticeship, because with his experience, being an apprentice would seem like taking a step backwards.
“I don’t want to go back and do an apprenticeship, because I’ve pretty much already done my apprenticeship. But I just never got the accreditation. Through the Recognition of Prior Learning programme, I can get certified up to my level of knowledge and competency.”
Fishing for opportunities
Since doing Level 3 at MIT last year, Vosa has gone out on his own as a sole trader, working three days a week. This means he’s already self-employed – but getting his qualification would allow him to employ other people and grow his own business.
In the meantime, Vosa has been making the most of opportunities that have come along.
“I love fishing. I’m setting myself up as a commercial fisherman, so when I’m not working, that’s what I’ll be doing — I’ll be out on the water. It’s a side business.”
Well known in the Tuvaluan community for his legendary flounder hauls, Vosa had been giving a lot of his catch away. But as part of his refrigeration work, he found himself fixing chillers for a number of seafood businesses. He spied an opportunity to start supplying them.
“If I’m catching these flounder, why not sell them to my refrigeration clients who own fish shops? So, I rang the authorities to find out what I need to do, and now I’m getting myself set up to do it properly.”
Rising to the challenge
Vosa’s path into the trades hasn’t been a traditional one, and he says it wasn’t something he would have chosen when he started out.
“I didn’t like this work in the beginning, but I did it because I didn’t really have any other options. But now I love it. All of a sudden I had the opportunity in front of me. I thought, ‘Hold on a minute: I’ve never done this before’. But I did it for my family because if I don’t work, then I can’t feed my kids,” he says.
“Now I enjoy the challenge and problem-solving in this trade. I don’t know everything yet, but I learn every day as I go along. I feel like I’m in a classroom. I’m always learning how to do things better.
Being willing to give it a go and try new things has paid off, he says.
“I think that’s the challenge: testing yourself and putting yourself in new things. And then it turned into a career with big potential for me to make a living out of it.
“Once qualified, I’ll probably build up my business and employ a few more qualified air con and refrigeration tradies. My own business – that’s where I’m heading.”
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.
Kalib Lewis grew up working on cars, and his hands-on skills helped him quickly land an automotive apprenticeship. But he put the theory side of his training on the backburner for a few years – until he found out he had a baby on the way. Find out how the added motivation of fatherhood has led to huge changes in Kalib’s life, from getting qualified and becoming a foreman to buying a home for his whānau.
Growing up in Auckland with parents who did dirt track racing, Kalib knew his way around an engine from a young age.
“I’ve been working on cars since I was in nappies. I was always around speedway and dirt track racing and stuff like that. I was born into it, really.
“My parents knew basic stuff about cars, and they’d just get the job done and make it work. So, sometimes we had no idea what we were doing – we’d just pull it apart, see how it works and put it back together. ”
This practical background served Kalib well when he started officially training in the automotive trade. With a recommendation from his tutor at Manukau Institute of Technology, he quickly landed an apprenticeship (managed by industry training organisation MITO) with Davies Motors in Manukau.
However, the theory side of his apprenticeship was a challenge at first
“It was hard, especially because I was working 45-hour weeks at the time. So I’d go home and think, ‘I don’t really want to do this because I’ve been working on cars all day’. I’ve also got dyslexia, so reading and writing is not really my strong point.”
But after a slow start with his bookwork, Kalib found a powerful source of motivation to get qualified.
“I had a son on the way, so I was like, I need to get qualified. I need a pay rise and I need to get this done.”
“And that was the majority of my motivation in the end, was my son. Just to get my apprenticeship done and out of the way, because I wouldn’t have time later on – like, I’d have to juggle time with my son and being at work.”
Crossing the finish line
With his son turning two in September, Kalib (Ngāpuhi) has now been a qualified mechanic for around a year and is the workshop foreman at Auto Xcellence Ltd in Manukau.
“Getting qualified was a big relief. It was a huge weight off my shoulders. You never realise how much of a weight it puts on you until you actually get qualified.”
Kalib’s whānau are proud of his achievements, both in the trades and on a personal level.
“I’ve changed a lot over the past few years, and they’re stoked with where I’ve ended up. Believe it or not, I used to be a little devil child that used to go out and get in fights and stuff. My son’s sort of calmed me down and helped me realise there’s more to life than just myself.
“I’m a better person for it. Like, you live and you learn, and I know what to look out for now. And when my son came along I realised I wanted to be better for him. Even I’m surprised how much I’ve changed.”
With his qualification under his belt, Kalib’s higher income helped him and his partner to purchase their first home in Manukau.
“We’re in the final process of signing our house contract. We’re actually building on the back of my partner’s parents’ place. So that’s how we’re getting into the housing market.”
Saving the money for a house didn’t come naturally, but the 23-year-old set his sights on the goal and worked with his partner to do what was needed.
“I was one of those people that lived paycheck to paycheck. I just threw money around and didn’t really care. But with my son coming along, the priorities changed. It’s not all about me now.”
Knuckling down and saving money has allowed the couple to get set up for their future, says Kalib.
“We’ve achieved so much in the last year since I’ve been qualified, it’s ridiculous. But most of that comes down to, honestly, working long hours and saving money.”
“I took a year off racing and was like, ‘this is the goal we’re saving for’. Once we’re in our own place, I can start racing again.”
Having finished his apprenticeship, Kalib is now part of a small team at Auto Xcellence, where he’s learning how a business is run and how to work with customers.
“When my boss is away, I run the place. It’s sort of the next step. And then probably after that, the next step for me will be starting my own business. That’s a five-year goal.
“For me to own my own business one day, I have to see how a small business runs. It’s a big change from being in a corporation where you’re not dealing with customers regularly. My job now is more of a family environment. You get to know the customer on a more personal level rather than, oh, we’re just servicing your car.”
Part of Kalib’s role has been learning how to invoice customers, which often involves working within what the customer can afford.
“Being in a low socio-economic area, It’s been a big eye-opener. The customers can’t always afford for everything to be done. So, it’s being able to work with the customer as well.”
Success in the automotive trade takes dedication and patience, says Kalib.
“You have to enjoy what you’re doing and be dedicated to it. I’m big on enjoying what you’re doing, otherwise don’t do it at all. Don’t just half-arse it; you’ve got to be fully committed to what you’re doing.”
“It’s about learning how to be a mechanic, not a part fitter. Because anyone can be a part fitter, but to be a good mechanic takes some time and some problem solving.
“Often with diagnostic stuff, you’ve got to be patient. You’ve got to follow the systems that are in place or follow whatever the service information says. And you have to be dedicated to be able to find the fault and not give up and put it in the too-hard basket.”
Now that he’s qualified and working as a foreman, Kalib is keen to focus on enjoying life with his whānau while he builds up experience in his trade.
“I just want to live life how it is. I used to be a person who took everything to heart, but I know now that life’s life and you can’t really control it, so you might as well enjoy it while you can.”
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.
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.”
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.”
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.
When you see someone succeeding in their career, it’s easy to assume their life has always been great. But 28-year-old engineering apprentice Sherya Hetaraka knows from personal experience that isn’t necessarily true. After losing her dad in 2015, she battled depression and had to learn how to ask for help. Find out how Sherya got through the most difficult time in her life – and worked her way into the trades.
A few years ago, Sherya Hetarata’s life looked good from the outside. She had a great job at Griffins Foods, having worked her way up from packer to second-in-command. She was managing a crew of more than 20 people – despite being one of the youngest on the team.
In reality, she was going through the hardest time of her life. Her father had passed away, meaning Sherya lost her best friend and her strongest source of support at the same time.
Although it was difficult, she eventually sought help by talking to her bosses at Griffins.
“It took me a while, but I opened up with my bosses and they were the ones who helped me into seeing a counsellor. Because I got that help and support, I didn’t need to take time off work.”
After seeking help, Sherya was diagnosed with depression and started taking antidepressants. She also had fortnightly visits with her doctor and a counsellor for nearly a year.
“I got peace of mind from the counselling,” she says.
“I’m the kind of person who doesn’t like putting my struggles onto family or friends, because I’m the one who they all come to with their problems. My dad was the only person I went to about everything. So once he had passed it got real difficult.
“But talking about it with a counsellor was a lot easier. I knew they didn’t know me at all, so I felt like they couldn’t judge me.”
Mental health challenges are common in New Zealand, with nearly half of Kiwis experiencing a mental health problem in their lifetime.
If you’re having a difficult time like Sherya was, the most important step is to ask for help.
“Talk about it. It gets easier. Focus on yourself instead of trying to make other people happy. That’s where I think I was depressed quite a bit, because I was too worried about how to fix everyone else’s problems and not my own. Talking about it helps heaps, plus doing something you enjoy.”
If you’re going through a hard time, it’s important to seek help and remember you’re not alone.
“At times it might seem hard and you might think you can’t do it,” says Sherya. “But don’t be shy to ask for help because everyone needs help sometimes.”
Choosing the trades
While Sherya was working on her mental health, she was also thinking about a career change.
“I had a good job but it wasn’t something I could see myself doing for another 10 years. I started thinking about what I wanted to accomplish in my life and how I could make my dad proud.”
Sherya, whose iwi is Te Arawa and Ngāti Kahu, took time to think the decision through and spoke to her boss about the potential career change.
“I was stuck between engineering and social work. I’ve always wanted to help others, especially kids – mainly troubled youth with very tough backgrounds. I wanted them to know that someone cares and that things aren’t always gonna be hard.
“So I sat down with my boss. His wife was a social worker so they had done a lot of youth activities, youth camps and helping out the homeless. He explained that it’s one of the hardest jobs you can have. You need a strong heart that cannot be broken so easily due to the fact you can’t get emotionally involved.
“Hearing everything he said, I knew mentally it would take a toll on me because seeing struggling kids breaks my heart.”
Sherya had dabbled in engineering at Griffins, and the support she received from engineers in her team convinced her the trades was the right path.
“A lot of the engineers helped me out and I learned how to fix my own problems on the machines. Engineering was something I thought I might enjoy doing as a job.”
“I like taking things apart and putting them back together. I’ve always been like that. The job is exactly what I used to do when I was a kid – take things apart, put them back together. Only now it’s more extreme.”
In 2017, she handed in her resignation and began studying Mechanical Engineering Level 3 at Manukau Institute of Technology (MIT).
While studying engineering, Sherya discovered that trades skills are a great way to give back to the community. She joined a volunteer project organised by MPTT, where she and other trainees did some mahi for RāWiri Community House in Manurewa.
“Our project was to restore their community vege garden that was destroyed from a car driving through their fence and straight over their vege garden boxes. We weeded all the planter boxes, trimmed back all the harakeke around the community house, fixed all the planter boxes, painted the fence and replanted all the veggies.”
For Sherya, the best part was meeting the workers at the community house.
“They are amazing at what they do. These ladies do a lot of mahi for our homeless. They bathe them, feed them and care for them every week. Being a part of the project was one of the best experiences I’ve had since I started studying.”
Having finished her pre-trades course, Sherya has now been awarded a valuable three-year engineering apprenticeship at Griffins and is on her way to getting qualified.
Where to get help
If you think you need help, a good place to start is with your GP. They can assess you, help you make a plan for your treatment, and connect you with mental health professionals like a counsellor or psychologist.
Helplines mean you can kōrero with a trained person over the phone for free. You can talk about how you’re feeling, or what to do if you know someone who may need help.
Need to talk? Free call or text 1737 any time for support from a trained counsellor
Lifeline – 0800 543 354 (0800 LIFELINE) or free text 4357 (HELP)
Waru Pairama started his trades training by enrolling in a construction course. But having already worked in other industries, he quickly realised he was ready for employment in the trades. Here’s how Waru turned his organisational skills and proactive attitude into an apprenticeship, and how he plans to give back to his whānau and community.
For Waru Pairama, becoming a builder is about much more than just earning a living. The 21-year-old apprentice has a vision to make a difference in his community, especially among the youth.
“In the future, I’d like to give back to my iwi and my community. You see a lot of young people now not going down the right track, getting into drugs, gangs, that kind of thing. I’d like to be an example for them, whether it’s going into schools or to a marae. I want to show them what you can achieve by learning a trade,” says Waru.
“I also want to give back to all my whānau that have been involved in my life and show that all the time and support they put into me wasn’t a waste. I’ll make them proud through my mahi.”
Ticking the boxes
Waru, whose iwi includes Ngāti Maniapoto, Tainui and Ngāti Whātua, had spent six years in Australia playing rugby league and working odd jobs. He returned home to Aotearoa in late 2016 to be closer to his whānau and focus on his career.
In February this year he began a Certificate in Construction Trades – Carpentry Level 3 at Manukau Institute of Technology (MIT), and was awarded an MPTT scholarship. Early on in his course, Waru attended an MPTT event where he found out about the possibility of getting an apprenticeship – a job that includes the training required for a qualification.
“I think it was just, you know, being organised. 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.”
MIT relationship manager Naomi Tito says she wasn’t surprised when Waru quickly found employment.
“He was extremely proactive in moving forward and securing an apprenticeship, and as a result was offered full-time employment with KB Construction. Within a month, the company offered him an apprenticeship.
“What impressed me with Waru is that he knows what his goals are. He is an example for his family and for many of his fellow students.”
Waru is currently focused on getting qualified through his apprenticeship, which is being managed by BCITO and is expected to be completed by 2020.
As well as working on his construction skills, Waru also attends Te Reo classes two nights a week. “I’m enjoying learning, and progressing slowly. It’s about getting back in touch with my Tikanga Māori.”
Waru says his upbringing showed him what hard work is all about, and he’s always enjoyed being outdoors.
“Growing up in New Zealand, I was on the marae around my whānau in the kitchen seeing them doing the mahi. That gave me an insight into practical hands-on mahi.
“Now that I’m working in construction, I love it. The senior builders really take the time to sit me down and run me through things. It’s fun being on the tools.”
He says having his fees paid for by MPTT, as well as support with finding employment, has been a huge help.
“It kicked me off really – MPTT was my support base. Naomi has been awesome. She helped me work out what direction I wanted to go to in terms of learning a trade. I didn’t really know what I needed to do, or what would put me in the best position to get the opportunity.”
Jerome Ramsay started out as a labourer, before deciding to get more skills under his belt through a trades qualification.
With help from MPTT Navigators, Jerome made contacts in the construction industry and found an apprenticeship. His hard work is paying off. Last year, Jerome was awarded the Carpentry Student of the Year award and is well on his way to being qualified.
“It’s a snowball effect – once you’re in a good place where you’re showing up to work every day, it boosts your confidence.”
Jerome Ramsay has made some big life changes to build his future in the trades. He shares his story in this video.
Video Transcript: Jerome: I was labouring here and there and I never really thought about getting a qualification under my belt. I decided if I really wanted to make it in life, there were a few bad habits I had to kick. A few skills I had to learn.
A key moment was enrolling in Unitec, I didn’t know what was in store for me. It was a wonderful experience for me. I wouldn’t change it for the world.
I got the 2016 Carpentry Student of the Year Award, which was a big honour for me, I worked hard for it. I turned up on site early, always packing up gear.
They gave us a directional pathway and did a lot of networking for me, I got to meet a lot of good contacts in the construction industry. In terms of employment it gave me a really good head start.
I’m a registered apprentice, so I am getting my practical out of the way. I hopefully will be qualified within a couple of years. I work for Ingrown Construction, a small company but they are very thorough. Rick is a good fellow, he likes his work done fast and proper.
Rick (Employer): I think the first day I met him (Jerome), I said, “We start at 7am.” He said, “That’s brilliant, I’ll beat you hear every day”.
Its good. Jerome’s keen to learn, keen to know, that’s all you need really, the want, the drive.
Jerome: In terms of employment, (you need) the right attitude when approaching work. Things like work readiness, they’re just small but necessary steps.
You have to be drug-free. You can’t turn up to site hungover from the night before, it’s not a very professional outlook. You know you have to be functional onsite.
It’s like a snow-ball effect. Once you’re in a good place where you’re showing up to work every day, it boosts your confidence and you really want to get stuck in and become more dedicated than you were before.
Unitec and Māori and Pasifika Trades Training provided me the skills and resources for me to achieve throughout my academic studies.
You’ve got to want it, that’s the only way to succeed, you either want it or you don’t.
I’m out there every day, doing what I do.
Camille McKewin’s love of horticulture grew out of fond memories of gardening with her grandfather. She’s now using her skills to build a gardening business that gives her the freedom to spend plenty of time with her young daughter – who in turn is developing a keen interest in plants.
Hearing Camille McKewin talk animatedly about gardening, you’d think she was born with a passion for it.
So it’s not surprising that Camille’s whanau suspect her love of plants is in the genes. After all, her grandfather had a green thumb and tended to the many plants on the family’s property in Green Bay, Auckland.
“We had so many fruit trees – feijoas, guava, grapes, heaps of things,” says Camille, who is Australian Māori. “I really love the memories of that and all it took for my grandfather to maintain it.”
Her grandfather passed away when Camille was nine years old, but her memories of him are still strong.
“I remember being seven and eight years old, following him around the garden, learning heaps and chewing on sugar cane.”
Searching for more
Camille, now 30, tried out a few jobs – such as training to be a chef and working at a childcare centre – before she found her dream career. But when she began studying horticulture and landscaping at Manukau Institute of Technology (MIT), she knew she’d found her calling.
“I was always searching for more, something more stimulating. Taking up horticulture, I see the world in a whole different way. I look at plants differently, I look at food differently – I look at a lot of things differently that before I would have taken for granted.”
Once she began her training, Camille discovered the horticulture industry is much wider than she’d initially thought – from landscaping and growing plants to Māori medicine and pest control.
“I realised horticulture isn’t just about learning how to grow some potatoes. It actually opens up so many other doors.”
Philip Sutherland, one of Camille’s tutors at MIT, says she showed horticultural flair from the start.
“Camille was always engaged, interested and ready to get involved and get stuck in. She was a bit like a sponge – she just couldn’t get enough knowledge quick enough,” says Philip.
“She was confident in her ability and knowledge and prepared to back herself. That showed strength of character. She has a real can-do, go get ‘em attitude.”
Camille completed an introduction to horticulture and landscaping (level 2), followed by a level 3 course on the subject. As it happened, those courses were both free.
Although she wanted to go on to complete level 4, Camille couldn’t afford the course fees.
“I’m a solo mum, so at the time I was like, ‘I really don’t want to have a student loan’.”
But then she discovered her fees would be covered by an MPTT scholarship.
“It made a huge difference. I wouldn’t have been able to take level 4 if I hadn’t gotten the scholarship. It helps a lot; it takes a lot of pressure off.”
To clock up some experience and get started in the industry, Camille began working while she was studying.
This included tending the gardens at MIT over the holidays and working in neighbourhood gardens with another horticulture student.
“We were both really keen on getting out there and making money, so I was doing garden work with her for low income earners.”
Now that she’s qualified, Camille splits her time between working on these shared projects and growing her own business.
So far, she’s found plenty of work through word-of-mouth and via local website neighbourly.co.nz.
“There are so many people looking for someone to tend to their gardens. Elderly people or those who are unable to get out there really want help in their gardens – especially when you take care in the job you’re doing.”
One benefit of working for herself is that Camille can choose to work during school hours, allowing her to spend more time with five-year-old daughter Madelin.
“That’s the good thing about having your own business. Working for yourself, you don’t have to work nine to five. It’s all on your terms.”
Like her mum, Madelin is soaking up information about plants and how they grow.
“She’s telling her teachers about it and she thinks she knows everything now about how you plant something and why you plant it,” says Camille.
“She’s obtained some of the knowledge I have, which is great because I think it’s something this next generation really needs to take into consideration. Not many people know much about food and where it comes from. People take it for granted.”
Camille encourages other people with a curiosity about the industry to give it a go.
“We need it more than ever now that the world is changing and to feed the growing population. It’s about the knowledge and know-how of providing for ourselves, our whānau and our future. We need more people in the horticulture industry who are passionate about it.”
“It’s been challenging and a bit hectic at times. Learning to use powertools has also been quite difficult for me.”
Pushing her forward all the time is Sarah’s desire to provide her son Ronny, aged 5, with a stable future.
“I’m pretty driven to be a role model for my son. I’m going to have early mornings and late nights, but in the end it’ll all be worth it.”
Although her parents were a bit skeptical about their daughter entering a male-dominated industry, the difference in Sarah’s confidence and mood has been obvious.
“She seems to be a lot happier now. It’s a big change really,” says dad, Ora.
Sarah also dreams of using her trade to benefit others in the future. She was part of a team of trainees that volunteered their time and skills to build a retaining wall at Onehunga Primary School last October.
“It’s really nice helping others,” she says.
Fired up to work in Auckland’s booming construction sector, Sarah is now waiting to be offered a three-year apprenticeship through BCITO.
“My goal is to be a qualified builder within the next five years or so.”
And does she dream of building her own house, like on The Block?
“Probably in the next 30 years, once I’ve gained enough experience!” she says.
After getting kicked out of school at age 15, this Tongan-born Aucklander has come a long way. Here’s how Samson Tuituu turned his life around and recently used his hands-on skills to make a difference in cyclone-ravaged Fiji.
Samson Tuituu could never have dreamed he’d be building homes for cyclone-affected families in Fiji this year.
After being kicked out of school at age 15, he drifted through life, getting in and out of trouble and going from one unfulfilling job to the next.
Apart from playing Auckland-rep rugby league, Samson didn’t feel he had much to be proud of.
But at the age of 30, after one particularly bad run-in with the law, Samson decided it was time to turn his life around.
He enrolled in a Certificate in Automotive and Mechanical Engineering (Level 3) at Manukau Institute of Technology, with his fees fully covered by Māori and Pasifika Trades Training: Auckland (MPTT: Auckland).
“I’d always enjoyed rebuilding engines and building cars from scratch. I was brought up doing that with my parents, friends and other family members,” he says.
“But I was a bum, working in factory jobs and stuff. Then I wanted to change my life completely and go back to what I got brought up doing – fixing cars and stuff.”
Samson started the course in February and has loved it. He’ll soon have a formal qualification to his name.
“I’m really proud of myself for achieving a goal. Even my parents are really proud,” he says.”
“I really like stripping engines apart and trying to find out what the faults are, and fix the problem.”
Samson will complete Level 4 next year and then set off on his new career path.
“I want to work as an apprentice and then move into full-time work for years, and then move into being a tutor to give back. I want to help the younger generation so they don’t go down the path I was on.”
Making a difference
So, how did this Papatoetoe resident end up doing charity work in Fiji this September?
Thanks to sponsorship from MITO, Samson’s been able to join a team of MPTT: Auckland trainees helping with the post-Cyclone Winston rebuild. Partnering with Habitat for Humanity, the 16-strong team is building two new homes for low-income families.
“There are a lot of reasons I wanted to come on this trip. Firstly, I’ve never been here before, and also I want to get the experience of this rebuilding in Fiji. I want to help build a house and get to meet new people and enjoy the trip as much as I can.”
He couldn’t believe it when told his trip would be fully funded by MITO.
“I just want to thank them so much for sponsoring me and giving me this opportunity to visit Fiji and help give back.”