Making his experience count

Vosa Pitasini, Refrigeration and Air conditioning
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.”


Going legit

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.

From work experience to apprenticeship

A summer’s work experience in a busy bus workshop has been the key to a brighter future for good mates Kamosi Finau and Puna Taruia. Find out how these automotive trainees turned work experience into apprenticeships – and how you can do it too.

Talking to an employer can be scary, but it’s one of the best ways to get your foot in the door. Just ask Kamosi and Puna, whose introduction to an automotive employer led to a job over summer – and an apprenticeship offer.

The pair showed up for work experience at Ritchies Murphy Transport Solutions in Takanini during their last term of study at Manukau Institute of Technology. Thanks to their hard work and keen attitude, they made an impression on the workshop manager, Dave Robb (pictured with Kamosi and Puna above).

“I brought in half a dozen students for an introduction to a real engineering worksite,” says Dave, who manages four apprentices and 12 senior staff in the workshop and panel shop, maintaining and repairing a fleet of 160 buses and 40 cars.

“Some of the students were a bit cocky and some didn’t seem interested. But these two were writing things down and really taking notice,” says Dave.

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

Putting yourself forward

Fronting up to an employer is really worth doing, even if you feel scared or whakamā (shy).

“Just knock on the door and offer to sweep the floor,” says Dave. “Work experience gives you an idea of what you want to do and gives you the inside running when a job comes up.”

Although they were lucky enough to meet Dave through the course, Puna says approaching employers for work experience takes courage, “especially if you’re a bit shy like me!”. But putting yourself out there shows the employer you’ll be willing to put in effort on the job.

And once you’re in the door, you can show your enthusiasm by keeping busy, says Kamosi.

“Work experience is your chance to get on board and show you’re keen.”

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

Getting started

work experience landed Puna an apprenticeship

Puna, 29, grew up with a love for cars — fixing and modifying them in the family garage in Mangere. The Taruia family whakapapa to Niue on his mother’s side and Cook Islands on his father’s. Puna has a sister, and two brothers who are qualified tradies.

He’d been working for seven years as a process worker in a food industry factory and, with his family’s support, he decided to “step up to better things and get qualified”. He started with a NZ Certificate in Automotive Engineering (Level 3) at MIT with help from an MPTT scholarship, which is how he met Mosi.

Kamosi is currently doing his apprenticeship in mechanical engineering

Kamosi Finau, 30, is a married father of a 14-year-old son and three girls aged 11, 5 and 2. Mosi was born and raised in Otara and his family come from Tonga, where they usually try to visit every couple of years.

Having been forklift driving and loading trucks at Foodstuffs for 10 years, Kamosi decided to make a change.

“My father-in-law is a mechanic and he was pushing me to think about a career. I didn’t know much about mechanics, but I enrolled at MIT and things just opened up for me.”

A foot in the door

After laying the groundwork with unpaid experience during their last term at MIT, Puna and Mosi applied for paid work experience at Ritchies over the summer holidays.

“We thought we’d give them both a go,” says Dave. “They started off cleaning dirt from the roofs of the buses. And they turned out to be so keen and useful we buddied them up with a mechanic and extended their paid work experience by three weeks.

“Now — and they weren’t expecting this — we’ve just offered them both apprenticeships,” says Dave.

“We were only looking for one apprentice, but they’re both good blokes and they seem to like being here, so we’ve bought them a toolbox each and look forward to having them around.”

work experienceDave says Kamosi (left) and Puna (right) fit in perfectly with a team that works hard and safely, but has a few laughs along the way.

Puna says getting an email from the chief executive, Todd Murphy, was a huge boost.

“It just gave me massive confidence to know I’m in a job with a future, getting great training and learning work practices from the old boys.”

Dave says he’s always keen to meet enthusiastic learners, and encourages trainees to introduce themselves to potential employers.

“I might be a bit old-school and my approach takes a bit of courage, but I reckon if you front up and knock on the door of a place you want to work, you’ll nearly always get listened to.

“People can see your character when you look them in the eye. It’s a whole lot more effective than sitting behind a computer and answering a whole lot of ads. It gets your foot in the door.”

Work experience helps you get your foot in the door and learn heaps about your trade – and many employers won’t hire you without it. Find out more about how to get work experience.


Make your mark

Work experience is essential for building your skills and adds valuable trades experience to your CV. In fact, a lot of employers won’t hire someone who hasn’t done work experience. Check out these tips on how to land this work and make a good impression on your boss.

  • It’s normal to be scared to talk to an employer, but knocking on their door is well worth the effort. It shows initiative and a positive attitude, which is exactly what employers are looking for.
  • To help you feel more confident approaching an employer, do a bit of research by checking out the company’s website and talk to your navigator for advice.
  • When you show up for work experience, bring a small notepad and pen and take notes on what your boss says. This shows you’re keen to be there and will help you remember what you learn.
  • Ask questions. This shows you’re paying attention and want to learn more. Remember, employers don’t expect you to know much when you’re starting out. Instead, they’re looking for enthusiastic workers who value the chance to be there.

No trades experience? Here’s how to start

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

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

What is work experience?

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

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

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

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

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

Why do work experience?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How to find work experience

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Auckland trades trainees get more than just free fees

Tuesday, 20 November 2018, 10:05 am
Press Release: Maori and Pasifika Trades Training

Together we’ve helped more than 2300 Māori and Pasifika Aucklanders start their trades careers – but we can’t stop now. As you know there’s an urgent need for more qualified tradespeople, with a shortage of 30,000 skilled employees in New Zealand’s building and construction industry alone.

To help get the message out about our scholarships, we have created a press release supported by a social media campaign and video. We encourage you to share these with your audience and networks.

You can find our press release here.

Mechanic’s break of a lifetime

Think you can’t land a great job straight out of your studies? Find out how Jason Pou’s positive attitude, work experience and enthusiasm helped him score an apprenticeship at luxury car maker Mercedes-Benz shortly after finishing his course.

Jason Pou admits to feeling a bit out of his depth when he went for an interview with Mercedes-Benz a few months ago.

The 26-year-old West Aucklander had only recently graduated from autotronics at Unitec and had spent no time in a proper automotive workshop.

“When I found out about the Mercedes job, I thought I’d give it a shot. But I imagined they’d only hire well-experienced people,” Jason says.

However, Jason had been in touch with automotive industry training organisation MITO – one of MPTT’s partners. Seeing that Jason presented well and had a great attitude, MITO put in a recommendation for him with Mercedes.Having initially thought his chances of getting the job were slim, Jason jumped at the chance to meet his potential employer for an interview.

“They took me around the workshop and there were cars I’d never seen before. So flash – it was crazy. There were cars selling for well over $100,000. It was a bit overwhelming.”

Despite his lack of workshop experience, Jason had plenty of work-readiness skills to show from his nine years in retail at Supercheap Auto.

Being able to show he was a reliable worker with a get-up-and-go attitude clearly shone through and he landed the job – much to his surprise.

“I wasn’t expecting that at all! I’m starting in January and can’t wait.”

Opening doors

MITO’s acting regional manager Mark Lawrence says the training organisation had previously interviewed Jason and was happy to recommend him when the role at Mercedes came up.

“He was work ready and knew what he wanted to do. We were happy with the way he interviewed and his motivation and passion for the trade. Plus he was already working, which showed his good work ethic.”

The role at Mercedes is a fantastic and sought-after opportunity that Jason has managed to secure, says Mark.

“Every mechanic dreams of working on nice cars. Working for a company like Mercedes-Benz is prestigious and it’s an opportunity that doesn’t come up very often. Jason’s achievement is the outcome we’re always looking for.”

Jason’s story is proof that employers in the trades sector place value on candidates having a positive attitude and willingness to learn. They also look for employment experience, even if it’s from a different sector – like in Jason’s case.

Why not get paid for it?

Despite working his way up to an assistant manager position at Supercheap Auto, Jason finally made the decision to pursue an automotive career last year.

“I’ve been fixing my cars at home since I’ve had a car and I thought, ‘Why not get paid for it? I pretty much do that anyway.’

“If I want to get a bit of money and go somewhere in 10 years time, I want a better paying job than I could have gotten without a qualification. I’ve already got a good base knowledge of how to fix cars so that made me go and learn it as a trade.”

Shifting out of neutral

Jason’s only regret is waiting so long to get a formal qualification.

“I was thinking about studying for years but it was hard to leave my job. I’d applied for an automotive course after high school but it was too full.

I got a full-time job and I kept thinking about applying to study,but then I’d get a promotion at work. Now I wish I gone to study and get a trade earlier.”

After eventually making the decision to get a trade qualification, Jason successfully completed a 12-month Certificate in Autotronics at Unitec.

Being of Ngapuhi descent, he was eligible for a full-fees scholarship from Māori and Pasifika Trades Training Auckland, plus ongoing coaching from one of our Navigators.

“Getting the scholarship was great because it meant I didn’t have to pay for my fees. Now I don’t have much of a student loan to pay, so that’s a big help.”

Through his job at Mercedes, Jason will now be working towards MITO’s New Zealand Certificate in Automotive Engineering – Light Vehicle. He will also benefit from support from an advisor at MITO, to help him complete his qualification.

 

Jason Pou receiving scholarship
Jason Pou receiving MITO scholarship from Brian Messer and Mark Lawrence at Unitec Awards Evening, 13 November 2017

 

Avoiding the shortcuts

Jason will be working for Mercedes as an apprentice mechanic and he’s excited about his future.

“I definitely wanted to do an apprenticeship. It will probably take me about three years to complete but it means I’ll be fully qualified so I can work around the world one day if I want to.”

And in case you’re wondering what kind of car Jason drives, it’s a deceptively-quick Mazdaspeed Axela turbo.

“I like being out in it because, when people pull up beside me, they think it’s a nana car. But it’s a 2.3 litre turbo so it’s way faster than they realise!”

Are you interested in a career as a mechanic or automotive technician? Find out more about how to train, where to train, and how to find an apprenticeship.

Trainees prove their mettle

Three newly-qualified welding and fabrication students have found full-time employment at D&H Steel thanks to their hard work – and help from their MPTT navigator.

Robert Rudolph, Valusaga Iopu and Atanasia Galiga were offered jobs at D&H Steel after demonstrating their work readiness skills through unpaid work experience during the last few months of their course.

Work experience is a great way to get to know potential employers and show you’re ready to be hired. Although it’s usually unpaid, you’ll get valuable experience to add to your CV – or even better, a job offer at the end of it.

Well connected

It’s tough finding work when you’re just starting out and have no contacts in the industry. That’s why the MPTT programme ensures trainees aren’t doing it alone.

Each trainee has a navigator who’s there to offer advice, mentoring, and help finding employment.

MPTT navigator Tu Nu’uali’itia, from Oceania Career Academy, took a small group of trainees along to West Auckland company D&H Steel so they could see what life on the job would be like.

“We all met and travelled out together,” says Tu. “I prepared them beforehand, such as making sure they were ready to ask questions about the work and apprenticeships.”

The visit turned into an informal job interview, with D&H Steel offering the trainees valuable work experience.

“The guy showing them around got an inkling that these are quality guys, so he said yep, you can start working here. He said, ‘You won’t get paid and it’s 10-hour days, but if you want to be here you can come.’ All the trainees signed up.”

Robert, Valusaga and Atanasia made time to do one or two days of work experience each week for the last three months of their course.

Showing spark

Work experience is a great way for trainees to show an employer they’re ready to work and have a positive attitude.

“It makes it easier to get the job,” says Valusaga, aged 29. “The boss knows you’re a hard worker and can see you’re keen.”

The trainees quickly impressed their future boss with their enthusiasm and willingness to work, says Tu.

“They just wanted to get out there and work, and even took on some night shifts to check it out.

“Because of their attitude, the boss was very happy. He said, ‘These guys you gave us are amazing – they’ve showed their colours and commitment and I’m happy to offer them jobs’. He could see they were work-ready so he picked them up.”

Work experience is one way to show your value as an employee and get started in a trade, and the hard work can lead to much bigger things, says Tu.

“These trainees have families and they’re working really hard to do something big. So they bought into the idea of personal sacrifice. They’re driving their own futures and will one day be able to get qualified and start their own businesses.”

Amped to work

Valusaga, who is now working full-time at D&H Steel, had been working at a general engineering company as a labour hand. When he heard about the MPTT scholarship, he decided to gain his New Zealand Certificate in Mechanical Engineering.

He stopped working while he was studying, which became more difficult when he and his wife had a baby on the way – a daughter now age 5. But Valusaga saw the value in doing work experience to build his skills, get to know a potential employer, and get his foot in the door.

“I saw the environment at D&H Steel was really good. They’re really friendly and the manager, Cameron, was real good to us.”

Valusaga – whose mother is from Saleimoa on the Samoan island of Upolu and his father from Sale’aula on the island of Savai’i – now has his sights set on an apprenticeship, which he is due to discuss with his new boss after three to six months of full-time work.

Valusaga Iopu
Valusaga Iopu with his wife and daughter

“It worked out well,” says Tu. “They’re starting jobs and will eventually move into apprenticeships.”

Ongoing support

Even now that they’ve earned full-time jobs, these hard-working trainees will continue to be coached by Tu. This will help them to continue to advance in their careers.

“That’s the beauty of navigation,” says Tu. “Because we build trusting relationships with the trainees, we can actually see their shortcomings. So we can always be telling them the areas they need to improve and we can speak that into them.

“We look at the person, not necessarily the skills. Hopefully if they’ve got a dream and a goal, we just encourage them to keep aspiring to that.”

He says the trainees have put in the hard yards and are now reaping the benefits – and as a navigator, he’ll continue to offer his support.

“I just want to encourage them that they can do it and I think that’s where the navigation comes in. Our role is to keep telling them they can do this. Then they know they’re supported so if they fall over, they know there’s someone there to help them back up.”

D&H Steel workers
Cameron Rogers (D&H Steel) second left, with MPTT trainees from left, Robert Rudolph, Valusaga Iopu and Atanasia Galiga – at D&H Steel’s facility in Henderson

 

Trainees rebuild garden after car crash

community project in south auckland
A much-loved community garden that was destroyed by a rogue vehicle has been restored, thanks to a group of MPTT trainees.

RāWiri Community House provides services to the Manurewa community including free drivers licence theory courses, helping people search for jobs and working with homeless people in the area.

Earlier this year, the gardens at the centre were damaged when a car went through the front fence.

Eight MPTT trainees from Manukau Institute of Technology got stuck in to help and made the project their own – with some even making artwork for the fence around the garden.

At MPTT, we encourage all our trainees to get involved with community projects. Not only is it a chance to use their skills – and learn new ones – it adds meaning to their mahi by giving back to the community.

Read more about the RāWiri project on the Stuff website.

Māori and Pasifika Trades Training: Auckland engineering and horticulture students have been working tirelessly today to finish building vege gardens at Rawiri Community House. These gardens will help the team at RaWiri to continue to help feed our communities. Awesome work! #teamwork #mahiwithapurpose Competenz

Posted by Healthy Together – Counties Manukau on Thursday, 26 October 2017

Iani Nemani of Competenz
Iani Nemani from Competenz who helped setup this community project

Louisa Wall at Rāwiri Community House
Louisa Wall with Kirk Sargent at Rāwiri Community House

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