Wanted: Old tradies to mentor newbies

5:35 pm on 7 December 2015

Experienced Māori and Pasifika tradies are being asked to help the next generation of apprentice tradespeople.

Between 1959 and the mid-1980s, thousands of Māori gained trade qualifications under the Māori Affairs Trade Training Scheme.

Mark Katterns

Hawkins Construction director of major projects Mark Katterns was part of the Māori Affairs Trade Training Scheme in 1972. Photo: MPTT: Auckland

The scheme's former trainees are now being called to help new tradies by joining the Māori and Pasifika Trades Training Auckland Alumni scheme.

It is designed to help connect successful past trainees with current students heading into apprenticeships and employment.

Hawkins Construction director of major projects Mark Katterns was part of the Māori Affairs Trade Training Scheme in 1972

At 15 years old, he was put on a bus from the Bay of Islands to Auckland where he stayed for two years in Owen Hostel in Epsom.

He said he really wanted to be a mechanic but ended up taking a carpentry position.

Mr Katterns said the trade scheme gave him more than a successful career.

"They gave me an opportunity in life, an opportunity to learn, an opportunity to grow and they taught me a trade," he said. "If it wasn't for Māori Affairs, I wouldn't have got this opportunity."

Mr Katterns said he wanted to help other teenagers learning a trade and hoped they would gain more than a qualification.

"My dream is to see to these boys come out after four years and and do what I've done.

"They've got to give back. They are not just on here to become a carpenter or a tradesman; they're here to become a leader."

Kirk Sargent is the project manager of the new scheme, and he said there was still a stigma about taking up a trade.

"The language that's still being used is 'if you're not academic or if you're struggling, then go into the traditional trades', and there's the perception it's a second-tier career - we think the reality is quite the opposite," Mr Sargent said.

Māori and Pasifika Trades Training, which currently has 538 students, is a government initiative that grew out of the Christchurch rebuild and the growth in construction infrastructure in Auckland.

According to Mr Sargent, about 60 to 70 percent of the trainees were studying traditional construction infrastructure trades such as plumbing, electrical and carpentry.

The trade training scheme also offers automotive, fabrication, hairdressing, floristry and service industry training.

Many trainees were heading into apprenticeships and employment, and Mr Sargent hoped connecting them with those already in a trade would create a productive community.

The new alumni scheme is open to former Māori Affairs trainees working in Auckland.

Get the new RNZ app

for ad-free news and current affairs