Skills runs an ambassador programme highlighting the achievements of successful Kiwi tradies in our industries.
The ambassador programme aims to inspire young Kiwis to enter the trades. It shows them that there are great career opportunities, that they can earn a good income, gain a qualification while they work and that tertiary education doesn’t necessarily mean ‘going to uni’.
Experience has taught us that our ambassadors are often the best people to inspire future generations to follow in their foot steps.
There’s a bit of a difference between dairy farming and being an electrician. But sometimes in life you just have to change direction. That’s what Rody Wiltenburg found when he was 22, after five years working on a dairy farm. “I was about to become a manager but there just didn’t seem proper reward for all the effort you were putting in.”
Rody joined an electrical company, French Electrical, on a trial basis. “At the end of three weeks, sitting down on a Friday night, my boss Chris French asked me what I wanted to do. Bugger off or take an apprenticeship?”
It wasn’t a hard decision. Rody could tell Chris liked apprentices and there was a really good team atmosphere in the company. He liked the working and earning environment too – gaining practical knowledge at the same time as learning the theory and getting paid.
The idea of working in tight spaces, with grime and sewer pipes gives most people the heebee jeebies. But Nikita gives a it a different perspective. She’s in the third year of a plumbing apprenticeship and loving it.
Nikita was planning on an Arts degree, but decided she didn’t like studying and doing essays, so ended up working at an After School and Holiday Programme – after three years she decided that dealing with kids all day was not for her! Her partner, who’s a builder, suggested a trade. “Electricity scares the crap out of me, so being a sparky was out the window, and I couldn’t be a builder because if I was better than him he’d get upset! So I thought sh*t doesn’t really bother me, how about plumbing?”
Last year, she achieved ‘Highly Commended Student or Apprentice’ in the National Association for Women in Construction Awards. So there's no doubt she's made the right decision.
Since starting her apprenticeship Maggie has achieved Leading Hand status and is a Health and Safety rep. She loves being a female in a male dominated industry.
Maggie has never experienced any issues or trouble: “It has always been sweet.” She said that people were really supportive: “Initially, there were a couple of workers who went OMG, whatever… you won’t be able to do it.” She has proved them wrong. Maggie doesn’t have a big physical build, but once her colleagues saw that she was able and willing, they have thrown their support behind her.
She now works for South Pacific Scaffolding in Auckland and is loving her work: “It’s awesome experiencing the stuff we are doing. I was used to industrial scaffolding, now I’m 40 metres up doing high rises in the city. It’s really exciting.”
Look ahead 10 years from now and, if Sainila Tagi has his way, he and three of his brothers will be running a full-service family-owned construction company.
With one brother in the building industry, another in plumbing, a third a qualified architect and Sainila on electrical, he says they’ll have all the bases covered to get a family business up and running.
“We are just at the start of it all,” says Sainila, who is two years into his electrical apprenticeship with Team Cabling Ltd. “My brother who is a builder is an exam off being qualified, the brother in plumbing is a year off as well. I have just over a year left to get my ticket. So yes, this family business is something we want to work towards.”