Tikanga and strong relationships are the foundation for Māori and Pasifika success at NZMA

NZMA is unlocking new futures for Māori and Pasifika by doing things differently. 

The team at NZMA has put tikanga Māori at the foundation of its relationships with tauira, whānau and the community. As a result, they’re breaking down barriers for a whole range of learners. 

Vau Atonio, Campus Manager, says it’s an approach that is woven into every part of NZMA’s programme. He’s come through roles that include teaching, stakeholder engagement, regional sales manager, head of faculty and now campus manager, allowing him to see how each layer of the organisation works with the rest. 

Building a place for people to thrive

“It starts on the first day at orientation. It’s all about making sure that when tauira walk through the door, the first thing they see is a big smile.

“I truly believe that if cultural inclusivity is embedded from the outset, outcomes will follow, and students will flourish.” 

An example of this is the learning environment created when NZMA partnered with Hoani Waititi Marae to establish NZMA’s Trades West Campus. It means culture always has a visible presence.

“We run classes every week for each cohort where they learn about the language and customs. Our students enjoy the pōwhiri. For many, it brings comfort from the get-go because they see what they’re used to at home reflected in their learning space. 

I tell my students: ‘You need to feel like this is your home. Because if you feel safe, you’ll be better able to learn and grow.” 

He tangata

“It’s about creating an environment that is full of the things our people are good at, so it’s supportive of learning and growth,” says Vau.

“We embrace waiata and karakia, and it’s a family orientated thing. We want to ensure our students are proud of their culture.

We prepare them to speak about themselves articulately, express what they need and be confident to talk about their skills.” 

NZMA’s philosophy has always been about building genuine relationships with students, treating everyone with respect, and understanding that they are all individuals with different dreams, pressures and needs. It creates an inclusive environment for a diverse group of learners. 

“Some learners that come through that just don’t fit the school mould. We also have a broad range of ages.”

“Tikanga gives us the platform to support and rebuild our learners who have had a negative schooling experience or may have low self-esteem.” 

“At all three of NZMAs Trades campuses, we have a regular lunch where everyone just puts down their tools and breaks bread together. This is about getting to know each other and sharing each other’s stories.”

NZMA has three campuses specialising in trades.

Drop into a campus near you, say hi and see why NZMA could be the place for you.

NZMA Trades Centre

807 Great South Road, Mount Wellington, Auckland 1060, 
Phone: 09 217 0501

  • Painting & Plastering
  • Construction
NZMA Trades West

Parrs Park, 443 West Coast Road, Oratia, Glen Eden, Auckland 0602, 
Phone: 09 217 0501

  • Construction
  • Plumbing & Gasfitting
  • Electrical Engineering
NZMA Trades South

15c Vestey Drive Auckland, Mt Wellington, Mount Wellington, Auckland 1060
Phone: 09 217 0501

  • Plumbing & Gasfitting
  • Electrical Engineering

What you can see shows what you can be

Vau says NZMA knows students need to be able to recognise themselves in the staff and tutors so they can see what’s possible. This is especially so for supporting women into the trades

Jasmine, Karley and Toa are three Construction Tutors who are welcoming a new generation of wāhine into their classrooms at NZMA.

“When we have so many women as tutors, it means trainees have relatable and inspiring role models so they can see, ‘Hey, I can do that too,” says Vau. 

Jasmine, a construction tutor, says NZMA trades training has a great atmosphere for women and the whole industry is less male-dominated than in the past. Toa and Karley say they see women flourish at their campus and say their determination shines through. 

“They’re less likely to just fall into it as a pathway. Instead, it’s a conscious choice.” 

You can read more about the women breaking down stereotypes here.

Practical support and skills are a focus 

Vau says NZMA sets Māori and Pasifika up for both immediate and long-term success.

“Being amazing at what you do is not enough; you also need to be reliable. This means sorting transport and making sure you’ve got the right gear. 

“Our trainees are ready to work hard. We want to equip them with self-belief as well, so they have the persistence to complete their apprenticeships.

“I tell them that once you’re qualified, you become the decision-maker. You become the person who gets to make the decisions that change people’s lives and also to make decisions that make your life a better place.” 

“We have the opportunity to change lives, and I’m really grateful for that.”

Shifting the Dial

Vau recently contributed NZMA’s insights on Māori and Pasifika learners to a report, ‘Shifting the Dial: The Economic and Societal Impact of Removing Barriers for Underserved Learners in Aotearoa (2022).   

Vau explains, “Many of our students feel an inherent responsibility to their families to make the most of every opportunity and to pave the way for the next generation.  

“They are often the first to pursue post-secondary education in their families. It can be easy for them to feel alone and unsure of themselves in these unfamiliar waters. 

“Our students are striving for generational change, not only in their educational capabilities but also for their families’ financial situation.” 

With every graduate, NZMA is helping another new tradie create that future. 

How to show you have a great attitude

If there’s one thing your boss wants you to bring to work from day one, it’s a great attitude. Your ‘A’ game! But how do you get one? For many of our trainees, it’s about taking an honest look at what they say and do – plus doing some simple things that show they’re keen to learn. Here, we look at practical ways to impress your boss and do well in the workplace.

Bringing a positive, motivated attitude to the mahi will not only help you get hired and score an apprenticeship, it can also help you get promoted in the future and get great references when you decide to change jobs. Your employer will see you are present at work and interested in the job.

MPTT navigator Hami Chapman works with tauira to help them get work-ready, which includes having the right attitude. He says improving your attitude means doing some thinking and being open to how you might need to change.

“As navigators, we often see subtle changes in our tauira’s attitude after we work with them. We encourage the tauira to look in a mirror to identify what needs changing, then work out what that change could look like. Sometimes it’s like seeing a lightbulb come on in their heads.”

To help show the importance of attitude, one exercise navigators do with tauira is to assign each letter of the alphabet a number (A = 1, B = 2, etc) and add up the value of the word ‘attitude’, says Hami.

“What they find is that the letter values add up to 100. We tell them, this is what employers want to see… 100% attitude.”

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.

Show up

Whether it’s your interview or your first day on the job, the best way to get things off to a good start is to show up on time.

Mark Katterns, project director at Hawkins Construction, says showing up on time each day is the key to doing well in the trades industry.

“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.”

What to do

  • Aim to show up on site at least 10 minutes early, so you’re less likely to be late if something unexpected happens on the way, like traffic being worse than usual.

  • Don’t pack up early or be the first to leave every day. Keep working until it’s time to stop, and ask your boss if there’s anything that needs to be done before you leave. This shows you’re keen and wanting to do the work.

Ask questions

Your boss wants to see you’re motivated to learn, and one of the best ways to show that is to ask questions.
It can feel uncomfortable to put yourself out there and ask a question, but it’s worth the effort, says qualified mechanical engineer and MPTT graduate George Patterson.

“It was hard to put my hand up and say, ‘Can you please explain that and slow it down for me?’ That’s what you have to learn to do though.

“When things get hard, just ask. I feel like that’s a big thing for Pacific Islanders — we’re shy about asking questions, asking for help, speaking up. There’s never a dumb question. Always remember that you’re an apprentice and you’re still learning.”

George’s boss, Ian Norton, says having an employee who asks questions makes his job much easier, because then he knows if he needs to explain things further.

“The great thing with George is that if he doesn’t know something, he asks.”

What to do

  • When your boss is explaining something to you, try to come up with at least one question you can ask. Asking questions helps you learn more.

  • If you don’t know something, make sure you ask. This shows your boss they can trust you to speak up. Remember, your boss doesn’t expect you to know it all and they need to know if you don’t understand anything.

Take notes

It can be hard to remember everything your boss says. So, when they’re explaining how to do a job, try taking notes.

Dave Robb, Ritchies Murphy Transport Solutions workshop manager, says taking notes can help you stand out and shows you want to learn. This was what impressed him about Kamosi Finau and Puna Taruia, who came for work experience but ended up being offered apprenticeships.

“I brought in half a dozen students for an introduction to a real engineering worksite,” says Dave. “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.”

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

What to do

  • Get a small notepad and pen and keep them in your pocket at work. That way, you can take notes whenever your boss tells you something new, or whenever you think of something you want to learn more about.

Stay busy

Another great way to show your positive attitude is to volunteer for work you haven’t been asked to do.

So, when you’re on site and you finish a task, make sure you look for something else to keep you busy, says automotive apprentice Kamosi Finau.

“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.”

What to do

  • When you’re on site and you finish a task, don’t check your phone or stand there waiting for your boss to tell you what to do next – look around to see if anything needs tidying up or ask someone else on the team if they need help.
  • Think you know what might need to be done next? Ask your boss if they want you to get started. Making a suggestion is better than just asking what they want you to do – even if you get it wrong. It shows you’ve thought about what might need doing, rather than just waiting to be told what to do.

Keep on top of your bookwork

If you’re in an apprenticeship, it’s important to work on your theory regularly.

Employer Eddie Green, who oversaw mechanical engineering apprentice Toni Rhind’s work at Pacific Steel, says staying up to date with your bookwork is useful to your boss. It helps you to be a good team member at work.

“Toni’s a role model. Her schoolwork and block course is always up to date. She adds a lot of value to our business and she’s always been outstanding.”

As an apprentice, George Patterson put off the theory work at first, but eventually found that keeping on top of his bookwork was much less stressful.

“Try not to leave things to the last minute, because that’s when you start panicking.”

What to do

  • Set aside time each week for theory work. Doing the work in smaller chunks is much easier and less stressful than trying to find time to do it all at once later on.

Keep your tools safe

A tradies tools are their most valuable possession
As a tradie, your tools are your most valuable possession – but they’re also a top target for thieves. Tool theft is on the rise in New Zealand, as a handful of our MPTT trainees have discovered. But, there are things you can do to protect your kit. Read on to find out some simple ways to keep your tools safe.

MPTT electrical trainee Vaine Wolfgramme learned first-hand why tradie’s insurance is so important when her tools were burgled from her sister’s house earlier this year.

“It was my Makita drill — an impact and a hammer and they were worth about $800. It was brand new. I’d only just got it. I hadn’t even had time to write my name on them.” 

Stolen along with her tools was Vaine’s Playstation 4 and her work safety gear. 

But luckily, Vaine was wise and had her tools insured before they were nicked. This meant she’s able to replace the tools she lost, without having to cover the full expense herself.

“I’m just waiting for the insurance company to give me the money so I can go and buy some new tools.”

Watch your back

To protect your livelihood, it’s important to get educated on tool theft and what you can do to prevent it. 

Remember, tools that are visible from the street are more likely to be stolen. So, it’s best not to keep tools in the back of your ute or hanging up on the garage wall.

It’s common for thieves to sit, wait, and watch for the perfect window to steal – so keep that in mind when you’re taking tools from one place to another. 

In Vaine’s case, she believes the thieves were watching her drop her tools off at her sister’s house after work, and took the opportunity to break in after she left.

“It was a rush job.”

If you normally leave your tools in your vehicle overnight, NZ Police suggest bringing them into your home each night instead.

If this isn’t an option, lock your tools in a secure box that’s hidden from view, or cover your tools with a blanket or tarpaulin to keep them out of sight.

Get it engraved

Another key way to keep your tools safe is to get your name engraved on them, says Vaine.  

“Some people mark or inscribe their tools — like, write all over them.”

Poster on how to protect your tools

Otherwise police might find a pile of stolen tools down the track, but if they’re not marked as yours, they won’t be able to get them back to you.

For the best chance of having your tools returned, NZ Police recommend engraving tools with your driver’s license number. 

You can find an engraving kit at The Warehouse or Mitre 10 for less than $50

If you don’t have one, you can get it done at a trophy engraving or key cutting store. 

Engraving is best because it can’t be scratched off or removed. But at the very least, be sure to mark your new tools with paint or a permanent marker in a unique and easily identifiable way. 

Make sure you’re covered

Insurance and police registration are failsafe ways to protect your tools.

Vaine Wolfgramme
Thanks to insurance, Vaine Wolfgramme will soon get her stolen tools replaced.

Fortunately for Vaine, her tools were insured when they were stolen so it was easy to replace them. To process her insurance claim, she had to provide the police report and the receipt for the stolen tools.

“I would say register your tools, because if you’ve done that and your tools get stolen, then you can probably get them back if the cops find them.” 

You can register your tool serial numbers online through the NZ Police SNAP website

It’s also a good idea to take photos of your receipts, in case the print on them fades. Make sure you store copies of the photos somewhere they’ll be easy to find later.

Tradies can also use security apps like Tool Protect. The app stores information about your tools and makes it easy to file police and insurance reports for stolen tools from your phone.

Vaine’s advice for trades students is to make sure you’re insured as you advance in your career, because of how expensive tools can be to replace.

“Once I get a Fluke Multifunction Tester, that’ll cost around $2000 on its own.”

Tool tips for tradies

Your tools are crucial to your trades career, so do what you can to keep them safe. Tool theft is common, but there are things you can do to avoid it. Here are some reminders: 

  • Engrave your tools with your name or licence number.
  • Get your tools insured. 
  • Register tool serial numbers with NZ Police.
  • Store tools in secure places out of sight. 
  • Be vigilant when moving your tools from place to place.

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!”

How to make your money last

It’s easy to spend everything you earn. But if you want to have enough money for those big goals, like buying a house, you need financial skills to get ahead.

A group of NZMA students, including MPTT Auckland trainees, went along to a financial literacy course called ‘Trade up your finances’ this month. Created by Sorted and run by Issac Liava’a, National Manager Pacific at Skills, the free weekly workshops covered all the tools trainees need to get on top of their money and plan for the future.

Find out the key tips our trainees learned, and how you can use them to make the most of your money.

1. Sort out your needs and your wants

Budgeting might sound complicated, but it’s easier than you might think.

The main thing is to know how much money is coming in (your wages), and how much you need to spend. That way, you can make sure there’s enough money for everything you need.

The trick is to work out the difference between what you want and what you need. ‘Needs’ are things you must have to live, like food, power, rent, or a car to get you to work.

‘Wants’ are things you could live without. For example, you might want a new T-shirt. But if you already have enough clothes, it’s not really something you need to spend money on right now – it’s just something you want. So, to get ahead financially, you could save money and wear the clothes you already have.

For 17-year-old carpentry trainee Jackline Lovo, the financial literacy course taught her how to save money for the future by spending less on her wants.

“It’s hard because I just want to be a normal teenager and spend all my money on partying and clothes and going out with friends. But I know one day, it’ll all be worth it if I save money now.

“One thing I do is leave my wallet at home when I go out, so I can’t spend more than I’d planned to spend.”

‘I want to make something of my life’

After dropping out of school at age 16, Jackline Lovo was packing broccolli and potatoes before she decided to learn a trade. “I realised the pay wasn’t good enough. I needed to earn more than minimum wage.”

She chose to learn construction at NZMA for the career options it will give her. “Especially in Auckland, it’s a good job and there’s a lot of opportunities. I want to work my way up and start a business of my own.”

The financial literacy course has inspired her to save money and get her finances sorted. “Coming here, I realised I didn’t know much about money. At the moment I stay with my mum, so I don’t have all the responsibilities of paying bills. So it’s good to do this course now so I’ll know what to do later on.”


Jackline Lovo
Jackline Lovo has started a savings account for her family after attending the course

2. Prepare for when things go wrong

Sometimes, things happen that you didn’t see coming. For example, your car could break down or you might lose your job.

To make sure those unexpected expenses don’t wipe out your savings or get you into debt, you need an emergency fund. This is money you’ve set aside to use when something big goes wrong. That way, you can sleep easy knowing you’re prepared.

Kamilo Joe Kaitapu, 19, says he’s now started an emergency fund as a result of taking the financial literacy course.

“I was already pretty good with my money. But I hadn’t thought about opening up an emergency savings account. I knew about saving money, but having emergency savings as well sounds more realistic.”

How much do you need in your emergency fund? Anything is better than nothing. So to start with, just make sure you put some money aside every time you get paid.

As a guide, you can work up to having enough to cover your basic expenses (like your rent or mortgage, food, power and water bill) for three months.

‘Carpentry gives me a secure future’

After leaving school at 16, Kamilo Joe Kaitapu started working in the trades. “I was working with my old man in construction, doing hard labour like being a hammerhand. It was good because I gained a mix of experience.”

To build his skills further and learn about customer service, he took a part-time job doing security at events. At the same time, he started studying construction at NZMA and was glad to have the chance to learn more about money at the financial literacy course. “I was already pretty good with my money, but it’s good to learn more. In my family, we struggled a lot with money and Auckland is expensive, so I try to provide for them as much as I can.” Besides becoming a certified tradie, Kamilo’s future goals include travelling to the USA and saving a house deposit.


Kamilo Kaitapu
Kamilo Joe Kaitapu learned how to spend on his needs, rather than his wants

3. Organise your bank accounts

If you keep all your money in one bank account, it’s hard to keep track of what you’ve saved and how much you’re spending. So, it’s a good idea to set up a few different bank accounts to organise your money. You can do this for free through online banking.

The accounts you’ll need depend on your goals and situation, but here are some examples:

  • Spending account – money for everyday spending and bills
  • Savings account – this could be general savings for the future, or money you’re saving for a particular goal, like a house deposit
  • Emergency fund – money you use only if there’s an emergency
  • Car – money for maintaining your car, like getting your registration and warrant of fitness

Carpentry trainee Tevita Latu, 19, says having his savings in a separate account helps him avoid spending it.

“Sometimes when things come up, I think about using my savings. But I have to choose not to use it.”

For Jackline, saving has now become a family effort. With four siblings in Auckland, she has started to teach them what she’s learned about money.

“Since starting this course, I’ve opened a savings account for my whole family, to help them save as well. They give me the money and I keep track of what everyone’s put in. I tell them, you need to own something that you can pass onto the next generation.”

‘You have to choose not to spend what you save’

Growing up in Tonga, Tevita Latu used to watch his uncle build houses. “I thought it was easy. But I found out you need to know how to do maths and be good at communication. It’s actually pretty hard, eh.” After taking the financial literacy course, Tevita is focused on spending on his needs rather than his wants. “I chose to do the course because at home mum and dad always struggled with money and paying the bills.” A priority for Tevita is helping his family out with money. “When it comes to helping my little brother, if he asks for money for school, I always give him some money.”


Tevita Latu
As part of the course, Tevita Latu learned to keep his savings in a separate account to help avoid spending it

4. Know your goals

To stay motivated to save, you need to know what you’re saving for. That’s where goals come in.

For example, a big goal for most trainees in the financial literacy course was to buy a house.

“In my family, we’ve always rented, but my dad’s parents had their own house,” says Kamilo. “For me growing up, my grandparents’ house was a really nice place to be and that’s where I have good memories. That’s how I want my own family to feel about my house.”

Trainees learned how to make their goals ‘SMART’:

  • Specific – This is about knowing exactly what you want to achieve. For example, instead of just saying you want to buy a house, you should specify the area where you want to buy that house.
  • Measurable – You should be able to know exactly when you’ve reached your goal. In the case of buying a house, you’ll know it’s yours when you’ve got the keys in your hand.
  • Achievable – You need to make sure your goal is possible to achieve. For example, buying a three-bedroom house in Onehunga might be achievable for your first home, but buying a brand-new mansion with a pool in the middle of Auckland isn’t doable for most people.
  • Realistic – This means the goal is within reach, given your situation. For example, if you’re currently studying and working part time, the amount you can realistically save for a house deposit is probably going to be lower than when you’re qualified and working full time.
  • Timely – This is where you set a clear timeline to reach your goal. For example, you might want to save your house deposit within the next five years.

By getting clear on exactly what you want and how and when you’ll achieve it, you’re much more likely to put in the effort that’s needed to reach your goal.

So use these tips to make the most of your money and build a great financial future. And if you need help or have a question, remember your MPTT Navigator is here to help you.

Your simple guide to becoming a certified tradie with MPTT

So you’ve started learning a trade – but what happens next? At MPTT, we’re here to guide you right through your journey to becoming certified. Once you finish your pre-trades course, we’ll be there to help you until you are fully qualified.

Check out this guide to see what support you’ll be getting as an MPTT trainee. How many steps have you completed so far? 

Watch the video or view our Kaiārahi (guide) below.

Or download a larger pdf at this link: Student Journey Map

MPTT Student Journey
MPTT Kaiarahi

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.

Working through hard times

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.”

Opening up

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.”

Top Trainee, Sherya Hetaraka
Sherya was awarded top trainee for Mechanical Engineering at the MPTT Exit Event held in July 2018.

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).

Giving back

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
Your doctor

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)
  • Suicide Crisis Helpline – 0508 828 865 (0508 TAUTOKO)
  • Healthline – 0800 611 116
  • Samaritans – 0800 726 666
  • Depression Helpline – 0800 111 757 or free text 4202
  • Youthline: 0800 376 633 (24/7) or free text 234 (8am-12am), or email talk@youthline.co.nz


Websites that can help
  • SPARX.org.nz – an online e-therapy tool provided by the University of Auckland that helps young people learn skills to deal with feeling down, depressed or stressed
  • www.depression.org.nz – includes The Journal online help service
  • The Lowdown is a website to help young New Zealanders understand depression and anxiety from their own perspective.


If it is an emergency and you feel like you or someone else is at risk, call 111.

How to negotiate with your boss

Want a pay rise or more flexible work hours? It could be as simple as asking your boss. But it’s not as easy as flicking them a text message – if you want your boss to take your request seriously, you need to show that you take it seriously too. These tips will help you talk to your boss and ask for what you want – even if you’re nervous.

So you like your job and the team you work with, but you wish you were earning more. Or maybe work would be perfect, if only you could adjust your hours. The best way to go from a good job to a great job isn’t always to apply for a new role – try asking your boss for what you want first.

But what should you say, and what happens if they don’t say yes? Here’s how to negotiate with your boss and get the job you want.

Meet in person

Whether you’re asking for more money or shorter hours, always meet with your boss in person. Don’t try to negotiate by email, and definitely don’t do it by text.

By meeting in person, you’re showing your boss you take the conversation seriously. This helps ensure they give proper thought to your request.

Get your facts straight

Before approaching your boss, do some research. For example, if you’re hoping for a pay rise, find out whether your current pay is higher or lower than average. Check out websites like CareersNZ or ask other people working in your trade. This will help you work out what to ask for.

Caroline Harris from ServiceIQ says you should make sure you know what result you want before you meet with your employer.

“Be clear about what you’re trying to achieve when talking with your boss.”

If you know what your goal is, you can then clearly communicate that to your boss.

It’s okay to be nervous

Mahalia O’Conner, 25, was enjoying her job at Autoterminal in Manukau. But with a six-year-old daughter, it was difficult for her to work 7am-5pm like the rest of the team.

“My working hours were a bit long for my daughter. She was going to before-school care at 6am and I was picking her up from after-school care.”

Mahalia didn’t find it easy to ask for shorter hours, but she didn’t let nerves hold her back.

“It was pretty nerve-wracking approaching my boss – but I just had to do it. You can only ask.”

Whether you’re asking for a pay rise or more flexibility, Mahalia says it helps to remember your boss wants you to be happy in your job so you’ll work hard and stay with the company for longer.

“You need a life outside of work. And it goes both ways – you need your job, but you’re an asset to your employer as well.”


One way to deal with nerves and help you feel prepared is to practise what you’ll say when you meet with your boss, says Caroline.

“Practise before your meeting with a friend or family member. Prepare for the answer to be ‘yes’, ‘no’ or ‘maybe later’.”

That way, you’ll feel more ready to talk to your boss. There’s no need to memorise a script – just be clear on what your goal is and the points you want to make.

Give a reason

Let your boss know why you want what you’re asking for, like Mahalia.

“I asked my boss whether I could do shorter hours. I just explained the situation and told him it was because of my daughter’s school hours, and he was okay with it.”

If you’re asking for a pay rise, it’s better to talk about what you bring to the job than to point out how expensive your rent is.

For example, if you’ve learned new skills or taken on new responsibilities since you started the job, those are good reasons for your boss to pay you more.

What if they don’t say yes?

As Mahalia found, even if your boss can’t give you everything you ask for, they might meet you in the middle.

“At first I asked if I could work 9am-3pm, and my boss asked if it would be okay for me to start later but still work until 5pm. So it was a bit of a compromise. Now I can drop my daughter off at school in the mornings, which makes a big difference.”

If your boss says ‘no’ to your request, ask if there’s anything you can do to make it possible in the future. For example, if you’re hoping for a pay rise and your boss turns you down, ask if you can take on more responsibility to earn a raise at a later date.

How to turn your employment trial into a career

90 Day Trial Period Countdown

**Updated November 2019**

Once you’re offered a job, there’s often one more challenge before you’re a permanent staff member – the trial period. Trials can seem scary, but if you know what your goals are and what employers are looking for, the trial period is a great time to show what you’re made of. Here’s how to impress your new boss and turn your trial into a pathway to getting qualified.
What are trial periods?

When you first start a job, your employer might want to have you work for them on a trial basis for a few months. As of May 2019, only an employer with 19 or fewer employees can use trial periods.

A trial period means both you and your new boss can suss each other out before committing to a long-term working relationship.

During a trial period, you’ll work and get paid as normal and you should be treated the same as any other employee. But if for some reason it doesn’t work out, you or the employer can end the relationship more easily than if you were already a permanent member of staff.

Many trial periods last 90 days. They can be shorter than that, but not longer. You can find out more about how trial periods work on the employment.govt.nz website.

Getting personal

Trial periods can sound scary. But remember, you’re not expected to know everything or be super skilled in your trade.

Mostly, your employer just wants to make sure you’re reliable and have a good attitude, says MPTT navigator Shirley Murray from the Solomon Group.

“Turn up every day, have a good attitude, be drug and alcohol free, show initiative and be prepared to listen and engage.

“What we hear all the time from employers is they’d prefer tauira to have a good attitude and time management skills and be keen to learn than to have heaps of experience.

Speak up

Good communication skills can impress your boss even more than your ability in your trade.
It can feel weird at first, but it’s important to be honest and upfront about any issues you have. Even if you think your boss might not be happy about what you have to say, they’ll appreciate that you told them about it.

Here are some things you might want to talk to your boss about:

  • Let them know what your goals are (like getting an apprenticeship or being the site manager one day), and ask them for advice on how you can get there.
  • If you have family commitments you might need to take care of, like picking your kids up from daycare if they get sick, talk to your boss about it early on. That way, they won’t be caught off-guard if it happens.
  • If you have a health issue or personal circumstances that might impact your work, telling your boss about it means they can better support you in your job.
Start early

Your trial period is also a chance for the employer to consider you as a future apprentice.

An apprenticeship is more than a job. It’s an agreement between you, your employer and an apprenticeship provider, and it’s the best path to getting qualified in your trade.

The first step to getting an apprenticeship is to let your employer know that’s your goal – and you should do that as soon as possible.

Not all employers take on apprentices. That’s because having an apprentice means committing to helping them get qualified, and not all companies have the resources to do that. So Shirley says it’s a good idea to find out early on if an apprenticeship is possible.

“I recommend establishing whether there is the possibility of an apprenticeship prior to your initial interview, just in case there is not one being considered by the employer.”

That way, your employer will know you want an apprenticeship from the start and can help you work towards achieving that goal.

Keep communicating

Even if you told your employer that you’re looking for an apprenticeship when you first met with them, you might still need to remind them about it later.

Remember, your boss has a lot to think about, so it’s helpful to them if you bring up the topic rather than waiting for them to remember to talk to you about it. This also shows your initiative and enthusiasm – both qualities employers look for in an apprentice.

But you don’t have to do it alone. Your MPTT navigator and your apprenticeship provider are both there to help, says Shirley.

“Get your employer’s contact details so you can to bring that information back to your support people – such as your MPTT navigator, apprenticeship provider, or tutor. That way, they have the opportunity to talk to the employer directly on your behalf.”

You’ll find contact details for all MPTT navigators on our contact page. To get in touch with an apprenticeship provider, visit their website or ask your navigator to put you in touch with them.

Not sure who your apprenticeship provider will be? The list below shows some of the biggest providers depending on your trade:

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

Money tips to get you cashed up

Where to start?
What you do with your money makes a big difference to your future. Good money management skills can help you put a house deposit together, save you from stressing about debt, set a good example for your kids, and create a positive legacy for your whānau.

Being good with money is a skill you can learn – and you don’t need to wait until you’re earning heaps. In fact, the best time to start is right now.

This advice from Linda McCallum, loans officer at Ngā Tangata Microfinance, will help you get on the right track.

Where to start

What’s the first thing you want to do when you get paid? It’s probably not to pay your rent, settle a power bill or set aside petrol money. But before you start spending on fun stuff, the number one thing you should do is make sure your financial commitments are covered.

“Get your regular commitments sorted, then form your lifestyle around that,” says Linda.

Once you know how much you need to pay for your expenses, you’ll know how much you have left to save and spend.

Don’t over-commit

Try not to take on too many financial commitments, especially when you’re just starting out. For example, instead of buying a new phone with an expensive plan, maybe you could make do with your current phone until you’ve been working for a while.

“People just get used to whatever lifestyle they’ve got,” says Linda. “When you get paid you might think, ‘I’m going to buy this because I deserve it’, and you get used to having those things.”

She advises sticking with the basics that you really need, at least while you’re getting qualified.

“If all of a sudden you’ve got money you might go, ‘Great, now I can get a new car, I can join a gym, I can buy a new phone’. But I tell you, it’s not a good idea to have too many financial commitments.”

Be careful when buying a car

The biggest money pitfall to avoid?

“Definitely don’t go and buy an expensive car with a high-interest loan,” says Linda. “It absolutely kills people financially – it’s devastating.”

So avoid anything that offers you fast access to cash – you’ll usually pay heaps of interest in the long run. Remember, buying a car is a big decision, so take your time before you commit.

“If all of a sudden you get offered a job and you think you need to get a car really quickly, that’s when people make a mistake and sign up for high interest terms,” says Linda.

If you do need a loan, Linda recommends applying to the Salvation Army for a StepUp loan. You’ll need to show you’re earning money to qualify, so if you’ve just been offered a job, see if you can temporarily get to work using Uber, public transport or even a cheap scooter until money is officially coming in.

And don’t forget – cars are an ongoing expense. So while you should look for a cheaper car when you’re starting out, you should still get it checked by a mechanic, says Linda.

“If you can get a cheaper car that’s had a mechanical check, you can run that for a couple of years and then you’re a bit more set up to by a more expensive one.

“And remember you’ll need insurance. If you get a fancy car, you’ve got to insure it, and that’s expensive if the car cost a lot, especially if you’re under 25. So that’s another reason to get a less expensive car – but still a good car that’s had a mechanical check.”

Once you have a car, make sure you set aside money each week to cover the running costs so you’re not caught out if the radiator suddenly starts leaking or you need new tyres.

“I’d recommend setting aside about $20 a week for a car,” says Linda. “You need to be realistic about that so you can keep your car running well, especially so you can get to work. Keeping your car going is keeping your job going.”

Where to start?
Before you start spending on fun stuff, the number one thing you should do is make sure your financial commitments are covered.

Start small

You might think you’ll start saving once you’re earning big bucks. But even saving small amounts can make a big difference to your lifestyle down the track, says Linda.

“Save something small and realistic so that you keep doing it and you don’t start resenting it. You still want to have some spending money.”

Over the years, you’ll find saving small amounts regularly really adds up, and you’ll be glad you didn’t put it off. For example, saving just $20 a week will add up to more than $1000 a year. If you leave it in your bank account and don’t touch it, you’ll find the interest the bank pays you will grow significantly too.

And if you’re not already signed up for KiwiSaver, it’s well worth doing. Even if you just put in the minimum amount, you’ll get extra money from your employer and the government as a reward – adding up to much more than you’d be able to save on your own.

Just remember, KiwiSaver can usually only be used for retirement or buying your first home. So having some savings in your bank account is still a good idea because you can access it when you need it.

Get help if you need it

As an MPTT trainee, you can always ask your navigator for advice. If you need help with your finances, don’t be afraid to ask.

If you already have debt or need help making a budget, consider signing up with a budgeting service, says Linda.

“Wherever you’re living, go along to your local budgeting service and say, ‘I need to get a budget done so I know what to do with my pay’. Then once you’ve gone along, at least you’re registered there. It’s somewhere you can always go back to if you’re in trouble.”

Once you’re registered with a budgeting service – which is usually free – you might qualify for a no-interest loan from Ngā Tangata Microfinance if you need one down the track, such as for car repairs.

To help you manage your money, check out the links below.

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