13 Mar 2020

Young Pacific women urged to give building and construction a go

10:30 am on 13 March 2020

A student from Auckland's Pacific community is calling on more young women to give the building and construction sector a go.

A New Zealand government initiative is setting the groundwork for young people, including Pasifika, to find work in the construction industry.

From left, Nehemiah Tangianau, Tarepeta Rio and Mark Goldsmith of the ministry of social development.

Nehemiah Tangianau and Tarepeta Rio. Photo: Supplied/MSD

More than 170 youth from 10 secondary schools recently completed the Site Safe Foundation Passport in Building Construction.

The course was funded by the government and run by SiteSafeNZ at Mangere College.

Minister for Social Development Carmel Sepuloni said the aim was to connect employers with job-seekers.

"In terms of a sustainable work and people's ability to actually stay in employment, that we not only encouraging them to just go and take up any job but that we're encouraging them to take the jobs that are meaningful to them," said Ms Sepuloni.

"And making sure that they do get the upskilling and training that they need before they go into these jobs so they are more likely to be successful."

Last month, 40 employers signed up or hired people in various industries and lined up job interviews for those who attended a jobs expo at Auckland Airport.

Carmel Sepuloni is the Minister for Social Development and Disability Issues.

Carmel Sepuloni is the Minister for Social Development and Disability Issues. Photo: RNZ Pacific/Christine Rovoi

Tarepeta Rio recently completed her Site Safe training and was among those looking for work at the airport.

The 18-year-old had high hopes her new safety qualification would help land her a dream job.

"I love woodwork - it's one of my favourite subjects - and I'm really keen on a building career," she said. "I think more young women should give the construction sector a go."

Ms Rio arrived in New Zealand with her family from the Cook Islands when she was six months old.

During her first visit to her mother's village on Aitutaki in 2018, she found there was no house on the family land.

She was told by relatives their home was completely damaged during a cyclone several years earlier.

"When I came back I spoke to my mum about it and she told me her great-grandfather and grandfather had built the house," she said.

"My goal is to go back to the Cook Islands and rebuild my mother's family house on the family land. That is the only reason why I have decided to become a carpenter."

Since attending the expo at the ARA Airport Jobs and Skills Hub last month, Ms Rio has found a job in the industry.

Her employer, Nehemiah Tangianau, said the first time he met Ms Rio he knew she was special.

"I sat down with her and she shared with me what she wanted to do - that she wanted to go back to the island and build her mother's house over there.

"And I said, 'I have got to get behind that'. So I took her on as an apprentice. That's how it kind of all started."

Tarepeta Rio is focussed on becoming a builder.

Tarepeta Rio is focussed on becoming a builder. Photo: Supplied/MSD

Ms Sepuloni praised Ms Rio for her determination, and called on more young women to go into the building and construction sector.

"I think Tarepeta feels that this is a career pathway that she's excited about and we support her. We want more women to go into the building sector as well as Pacific people," she said.

"So my message to her is to continue to be excited about her future. To continue to take up the opportunities that come along."

Ms Sepuloni urged communities to work together to encourage their young people into successful careers.

"To promote these opportunities amongst her own networks, her friends, her family as well. So that, I guess, as a Pacific community we can move forward to be successful collectively."

A Site Safe card - which covers health and safety responsibilities on building sites - is mandatory for most building and construction jobs.