So says Dana Russell, a young carpentry apprentice working on an exposed site in Wellington’s hill suburb of Karori. The temperature gauge says 5 degrees but it’s warm and cosy in the onsite shed as well as fish and chips for everyone. Even in today’s blizzard conditions Dana recommends working in the building and construction industry, especially to secondary school students. Dana is completing his cadetship with WelTec while building a large four bedroomed architecturally designed home as an employee of A Sparks Limited.
Ash Sparks, Managing Director of A Sparks Limited – a medium sized architectural construction company building high spec million dollar plus houses for the New Zealand domestic market – is a man who clearly sees the value of training the future workforce. “My current apprentice Dana Russell who has worked for us for 1 year has almost completed his studies with WelTec. Our foreman trained as an apprentice and then studied his advanced trades with WelTec.
“I want other employers in the Wellington region to think about their current workforce and commit to training now ahead of the forecast skills shortage resulting from leaky homes and the Christchurch earthquakes. There are bright young students coming off pre-trade programmes who want apprenticeships. The building and construction industry needs to take on apprentices before these young people head off overseas or decide to do something else.
“We are currently building two large architecturally designed houses and working on renovations to an existing home. We have 7 staff and one apprentice. We plan to take on another apprentice next year when the industry takes off. My advice to other companies is this - there’s no point waiting for the rush next year and scrabbling around trying to get young people interested in our industry then. We’ll need trained, skilled staff to build quality houses who are ready to work onsite and that training needs to start now.
“WelTec has 200 places available for people wanting to complete a pre-trade programme in the building and related trades industry. I would urge any young people and their parents thinking about their next step from school to think about working in this industry. There are rewards for those who apply themselves and show initiative. It’s a great industry to work for. I’ve done well out of it and I want young people to consider it as a career.
“I left school with NCEA levels 1 and 2,” says Dana Russell. “It took me awhile to realise I wanted to be a builder. I started my training with WelTec. The tutors there are really good and they follow-up when you’re out working. They have life experience and have worked on building sites.
“No day is ever the same. It’s very rewarding. You get to build a house and each house is different. It may be raining (and snowing like today), but that doesn’t matter. You just get your coat on and get out and start working. I did a pre-trade course at WelTec and now I’m putting it all into action on a real work-site. I have to be careful what I do as this is a real business and materials cost money, but with Ash’s support I feel confident to have a go.
Another staffer, Building Site Foreman Jared Torrington did his pre-trade training in 1996 followed by his apprenticeship and then his Advanced Trades Certificate at WelTec. He’s an example of where a pre-trade programme can lead. Jared manages the phone, supervises the site including contractors coming and going, pricing, and health and safety. “This job can take you anywhere and you can realise your life goals. For me that’s building my own home – a place for my family, built by me. I know it’s going to be hard, but I’ll look back on it as one of my biggest life achievements. I couldn’t have imagined taking this on without knowing what I’ve learnt through working with Ash and my studies at WelTec.