Construction has been traditionally a male-dominated industry, but WelTec graduates are doing their part to strike a gender balance in the trades, proving wahine have plenty of opportunity to help New Zealand build (literally!) back better post-Covid.
According to an announcement made by the Minister for Education, Hon Chris Hipkins, in November - female apprentices have more than doubled in a year, increasing from 845 to 1785 across all sectors.
WelTec graduate Keijahan Ranginui and Milika Mocevakaca are part of this growing wave.
Keijahan completed her WelTec Construction Trade Skills (Level 3) Carpentry course the week before lockdown in March, so when restrictions were lifted she was raring to pick up her tools and get back to work.
She took a position as an apprentice in an all-wahine team, focusing on building residential houses in the Wellington area.
“I was really excited to start work at Yellowhammer after we were all stuck at home during lockdown,” says Keijehan. “My boss was looking for apprentices for her all-female team, and I thought that sounded like a really good environment for me to work and learn - so I jumped at the chance.”
After finishing school Keijahan’s parents encouraged her to study a trade through WelTec in hopes that the hands-on study would appeal to her practical nature.
“I didn’t know what I wanted to do after college but Mum did a bunch of research and asked what I thought of construction. She also found that I was eligible for the Māori and Pasifika Trades Training scholarship (MPTTS) which was a huge help through my studies,” says Keijahan.
The MPTTS scholarship is as much about covering the costs of study as it is about supporting students to be the best they can be.
Hinemoa Priest, Kaiwhakahaere Māori, and Manager of the Tamaiti Whāngai team which supports the MPTTS programme at both WelTec and Whitireia explains:
“The team helps our learners with all manner of things - from getting a driver’s licence, sourcing equipment for their hands-on learning, and providing wrap around pastoral, cultural, and wellbeing support - and ultimately and most importantly - we assist them into work through our employer networks.”
Milika Mocevakaca who also graduated from WelTec at the same time as Keijahan, was thrilled to receive a job offer from Do Builders.
“I am the first female apprentice employed at Do Builders in an all male team,” says Milika. “I have always felt more comfortable around guys so it doesn’t bother me at all. I really like that the team treats me the same as everyone else because it makes me work harder and learn faster.”
“The MPTTS staff were amazing, they really made it their business to help you,” says Milika. “They would come to us, and make sure everything was going well with our studies and life outside of WelTec. They also helped me find my job which I honestly don’t think I would have got so quickly if it weren’t for them and I am so grateful.”
“To any wahine thinking of getting into the trades - I would say just go for it,” says Keijahan. “It is so rewarding when you see you have actually built something, and you learn skills you can use throughout your life - you and your tool box can build just about anything!”