After 10 years as a labourer, Doug Graham decided to turn his practical experience into a qualification – and an exciting career.

Doug Graham always knew he wanted to run his own business and help young people coming out of school.

But despite having more than 10 years’ experience as a labourer, he had no qualifications and no way of getting ahead in the building industry.

Making it official

Doug decided to bite the bullet and enrolled at Manukau Institute of Technology (MIT) to study part-time for a National Certificate in Carpentry (Level 4) while working.

It took him three years, but he graduated with pride last year.

Having a qualification means he’s been able to take on greater responsibility in his work for his employer.

“I’m more confident now and within another year I’ll be able to build houses on my own. Before I got qualified, I was just doing general stuff – labouring and pretty much just being a hammer hand.”

To cover tuition fees for the final two years of his studies, Doug was given a scholarship from Māori and Pasifika Trades Training (MPTT).

“It really helped me on my journey. At the time I was struggling a bit with bills and stuff and when I got the help, it took a lot of weight off my shoulders. MPTT giving out scholarships to Māori and Pasifika is great because so many people like myself need it.”

A new direction

Doug’s only regret is waiting so long to pursue a building qualification. He wishes he’d applied straight after leaving school.

“I had no direction whatsoever. I pretty much just fell into a job. I should have got in there [to study with MIT] when I was younger,” he says.

“Don’t be a labourer your whole life; think big and go for it. My goal has always been to own my own business and train all these young people out of school. I think within another four to five years that will happen.”

His advice to others considering a career in the building industry?

“The more knowledge you get now, the more time you have ahead to gain skills as well. Anybody can do it. With building the sky is the limit.”