Pre trades training gets young carpenters off to a flying start

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02 Jun 2015

In an age of strict compliance codes, stringent health and safety regulations and rising material costs, what a building company needs is good apprentices.

That's what the National Certificate of Carpentry and the Industry Training Association Building (ITaB) pre-trades initiative is all about at CPIT.

It's where well-known Christchurch builder Mark Metzger finds at least one apprentice every year, and that's how he met his employee Jamie Berryman, Itab's 2014 Most Outstanding Display of Upcoming Ability recipient.

"They learn a lot faster on-site than at tech, so I nabbed him before anyone else did. I've got a good relationship with CPIT and I'm always asking them if they can send good apprentices my way."

That was three years ago, when Berryman was still doing his pre-trade training at CPIT Trades, finishing his papers at night classes while working for Metzger's building company, MBL.

The award-winning home-builder has strong beliefs about the treatment of apprentice carpenters.

"We don't run apprentices like they're the bottom of the ladder. Everyone gets the same jobs, and they've got a chance to learn as many skills as possible."

This is one of the major changes he's seen in 30 years in the building industry, where an apprentice is expected to be work-ready from day one.

"A carpenter does about 8000 hours training in their trade, but that's only a guide. It's more about competence. That's one of the big changes I've seen, where their progress is monitored. It used to be that an apprentice could be sweeping the floor for 8,000 hours and come out and call themselves a carpenter."

Metzger describes Berryman as one of the best apprentices he's ever had. The 22 year-old former chef is already taking the reins on-site by dealing with suppliers, sub-contractors and even clients.

"I'm enjoying everything about building because I get so much variety. Definitely the roof stage is good because you can sit back and realise what you've done."

The Christchurch rebuild has opened a door of opportunity for CPIT carpentry apprentices and graduates like Lio Tauanu'u, Amos Neate and Semiko Tallot-Stuart.

Carpentry pre trade trainee Semiko Tallot-Stuart is following in Berryman's footsteps, learning the skills for her chosen career at CPIT's Sullivan Ave campus. Her goal is to become Hawkins Construction's first-ever female apprentice.

The 19 year-old works with Hawkins' site manager Tony Coles, who's in charge of CPIT's new workshop complex and He Toki ki te Rika Māori trade trainees.

Coles says: "My first two He Toki trainees Lio Tauanu'u and Amos Neate have been really good apprentices – I've got a lot of time for them. Semiko's still young, but she's coming along, and she's where I'd expect her to be. She's a bit like a sponge, and still taking it all in."

Tallot-Stuart's father, who died last year, inspired the former office-worker's decision to start her carpentry course last year.

"Dad wanted to be a builder. That's what pushed me to do it when he passed away. I got put off doing carpentry at school, but when Dad died, I decided I've got to do what I want to do."

Her ex-New Zealand Army boss Coles, a staff sergeant and veteran builder of 36 years, believes good communication is one of the best skills an apprentice should develop.

"Building is about plumb, straight and true, but it's also about how to deal with people."

He says there's never been a better time to be an apprentice, with so much guaranteed work in the building industry with the rebuild, for the next 10 to 15 years.

Find out more about ITaB apprenticeships.