By ASHLEIGH KINDER
Growing up from the age of 10 in Tonga, Joy Lalahi knew she wanted to have a career in trades.
“At about 11 I was helping my dad build and maintain our home, and is really hands-on. We were always outside maintaining fences, checking equipment – doing what needed to be done,” she says.
Being raised in such a practical environment helped Joy decide what type of career she wanted.
“Getting into a trade meant setting myself up for life. I eventually moved back to New Zealand when I was 16 and had the opportunity to visit a university during high school. Straight away I just knew studying for an academic degree wasn’t what I wanted to do.
“And now I’m half way through my electrical apprenticeship at the University of Canterbury (UC). It’s been amazing so far.
“I chose an electrical apprenticeship because while I got a lot of hands on experience working with Dad in Tonga, I didn’t do much electrical work so it always intrigued me.
“Ideally I would have gone into my apprenticeship straight after high school but I chose to focus on raising my son.
As a single mum sometimes balancing her career with raising a family can be a challenge for Joy (32) but it’s not one she shies away from.
“It’s tough, don’t get me wrong. Finding quiet time in between the nine hours of work and with two young boys running around but it’s all about having a ‘can do’ attitude which every apprentice needs to have.
Joy is proud she took the chance and entered a career generally seen as being more masculine.
“It’s important for women to know they can get into the trades. One of my main inspirations is my older sister. She’s a doctor in the NZ army, which is predominately male, raising two children and is a clear example of being able to do anything you put your mind to. She’s a legend.
“For anyone looking to get into a trade, especially women, you just need to do it. Believe in yourself, getting qualified, and set yourself up for life – no one will be able to take that away from you.”