17 May 2021

Pasifika, Māori women taking up tools to join trades industry

From Checkpoint, 5:41 pm on 17 May 2021

The trades industry is getting a shake up thanks to a new project working to get more Pasifika and Māori women to pick up the tools.

Last year, just one in 40 new trades apprentices were women, now eight South Auckland schools have an opportunity to bridge the gap. 

At a Nixon Road building site on the Auckland Airport precinct which looks like a regular workplace, the students are -thanks to the Ara Education Charitable Trust - renovating two houses that were destined for landfill. 

Schools Engagement Manager Sarah Redmond explained how it all works. 

"They're two days in school and then two days in training-technical or private and then they're here with us one day a week, so most days we'll have one school here with us but some days we've got two of three schools here on the same day."

This year, about 100 students will go through the programme, which runs over the whole year.

Just 14 of them were women, but that was something Cadette Facilitator Mapa Eliesa - who looks after 20 school leavers and 20 Year 13s who want to get into construction - was working to change. 

"It's an opening and a pathway for the next generation and I feel like this is just the beginning and these girls will become a legacy. 

"It's something that they can look back on and be like 'wow, we started it and now all these Māori and Pasifika women are following behind'."  

James Cook High School student Shye Samuel, 17, was one of those working on the renovations on Nixon road, following in the footsteps of both her dad and granddad who worked in construction. 

She admitted the industry was a man's world - and it needed to change. 

"We just found out that most earplugs that they have are mainly fitted for boys and girls can't fit them that's why I have ear muffs. It would be cool if they make stuff in our sizes too, because it's all in men's sizes but girls do it too." 

With a family of her own, the chance to get a full-time job doing what she loves was life changing. 

"I have a two-year-old and he's, yeah, something else... yeah, probably buy him his own playground." 

James Cook High School was at the site every Friday, it was the biggest turn out for school all week. 

"Yeah, everyone actually comes to school for once." 

Year 12 Manurewa high school student Elizabeth Popata Rainford had always wanted to get into trades, mostly for the hands-on aspect. 

"Probably just like ripping stuff out the walls and cutting the wires and stuff because it's just like, you know, ripping stuff apart." 

She had her sights set on changing the perception that tools were for the boys.  

"I just think it would be really great if girls... could step up and do boys' stuff." 

"At the end of the year, we have our capstone and then, if we pass that, we get our apprenticeship so I can leave school now and with a job. 

"I am young so [I have] more opportunities and we could travel the world depending who we're gonna work with."

That was something former Southern Cross Campus principal Robin Stables said had been hugely lacking for students previously. 

"Our students don't know what exists often, they make sense of where they are in schools, but until these opportunities are opened up where they can actually see possibilities and when they do they get excited and start to become motivated. 

"That's part of the vision we need is to be able to see where you're going in the future, how you can do a pathway and not just getting meaningless jobs, but into something that's well paid and has a future for your family."

When the two houses are fully renovated, they will be sold on and two more houses in need of renovating will be moved into their place in the coming weeks.