Getting an apprenticeship – not just a job – is the key to a rewarding career in the trades. That’s the view of electrical trainee Ioane McNiell-Temese, who began his apprenticeship at Coll Electrical in August this year.

“I thought it was really important to get qualified. It’s something I’ll have behind me for the rest of my life. What’s three years of training compared to a life of just labouring?”

More than a job

So what’s the difference between a job and an apprenticeship?

“Getting a job means you get paid to work for an employer,” says Tony Laulu, Pacific Advisor at Skills. “This can be a good start, but does mean the employer hasn’t necessarily committed to helping you get qualified.

“On the other hand, getting an apprenticeship means you’re actively working towards your qualification while you get paid. This includes spending some time at a polytechnic course as well as learning on the job. As an apprentice, your employer has committed to helping you get your qualification.”

Ioane, who is being supported by MPTT Auckland, could see the advantages of landing an apprenticeship.

“It opens up more doors than just being a labourer or driving a digger. Maybe in the future I can go to Australia or even start my own business.”

The 21-year-old, who is half Samoan, is quick to encourage other trainees to take the same path, if they get the chance.

“Get your apprenticeship as soon as you can. If you think you’re ready, even a little bit ready, you’re ready. Go out and do it – it’s much better than sitting in a classroom everyday; you’re making money while you study.”

Ioane was doing a Certificate in Electrical Engineering Theory (Level 3) at Manukau Institute of Technology when the opportunity arose to join the workforce.

His MPTT navigator Travis Fenton introduced Ioane to Pat Coll, founder of Coll Electrical.

“Pat asked me to come in just for a chat, and that chat turned out to be the interview,” says Ioane. “That’s how I got the job – easy as that.”

A win-win

Pat, who’s trained about 180 electrical apprentices since starting Coll Electrical back in 1985, says apprenticeships are a win-win, offering big benefits to both aspiring tradies and employers.

“Taking on apprentices is the right thing to do. It’s better for them, and it’s better for us,” he says.

“You’re giving workers an opportunity to up-skill, which means they can get paid more. A lot of people who get an apprenticeship find out they’re quite good at it and they get better and better. You see people grow, and it’s a neat feeling actually.”

Pat says more employers should consider taking on apprentices, rather than just hiring labourers.

“Why have a labourer when you can have an apprentice who’s just going to get better and better?

Hands-on skills

Having previously worked as a chef, Ioane’s now loving the chance to work in a more physical job.

“I’m really enjoying the work. It’s a bit different to the old cooking job! It’s more physical than I thought. I’m doing civil work at the moment, so I’ve been putting up street poles for the past month or so. The spade has been my friend.”

As part of his apprenticeship, Ioane will complete his Level 3 and Level 4 while he works. He’s doing his apprenticeship through Skills, and will spend one day in a classroom every fortnight – while still being paid.

Pat says he doesn’t mind losing his apprentices when they go off-site to study.

“Skills is very good. They come in and sign the apprentices up, they assign them to which tech they’re going, and we just keep an eye on it. I have apprentices who I don’t have any issues with right through their apprenticeship. They go to tech, we sign off their book, they do their job, we pay them. It’s great – couldn’t be better.”