Ngapo Wehi knew he didn’t want to be stuck in an office, so he decided to learn a trade. He’s now doing practical work he loves – and encouraging others to do the same.

Ngapo Wehi has never been an inside person, so when most of his mates headed to university, he decided to try a trade instead.

“At first I was going to go to university too and study sport and recreation. But I knew studying indoors wasn’t for me. Some of my other mates were doing building, so I thought I’d give it a go.”

Paying it forward

Ngapo, whose iwi includes Ngāti Porou, Ngāi Tūhoe, Te Aitanga a Mahaki, Apanui and Te Whakatōhea, studied building at Unitec and had his fees paid through a scholarship from Māori and Pasifika Trades Training.

He’s now two years into an apprenticeship with Constructa Built Ltd and enjoys his work so much that he tells other young people to consider a similar path.

“I’ve been encouraging a lot of my younger cousins, and even my friends’ younger siblings, to do a trade. It’s sort of like you’re studying for a degree but you can work at the same time – that’s what I like. You don’t have a $30,000 student loan to pay off at the end of it,” he says.

“It’s pretty cool to do something I enjoy and get paid at the same time.”

Future focused

Once he’s qualified, the 22-year-old plans to keep working for his current employer for a few years, to make sure he’s got a solid grounding in his trade.

“Then I want to start a business and go out on my own. Ever since I started working, the other guys were telling me that’s the way to go. Not only can you earn good money, it’s a good challenge for yourself.”

Ngapo, who lives with his partner and their six-month-old son, says it’s important to find work you enjoy because you’ll spend a lot of time doing it.

“You gotta be doing what you’re passionate about, and be in something you can see yourself doing every day. If you’re really passionate about being outside and seeing something through from start to finish, it’s awesome being in the trades.”