Thursday, 26 November 2020


Apprenticeships more appealing than ever

“The past few years have been an ideal time to learn a trade and post the coronavirus lockdown, the opportunities are even more appealing,” says Caleb Jennings, the owner of Bayside Construction in Whitianga.

Since starting his own building company a few years ago, Caleb, a licensed building practitioner, made employing apprentices a priority. “We need tradies coming through to keep our industry alive,” he says. “And although we want to see young people signing up, retraining is a very achievable option for adults who are forced to look for something else to do because of the COVID-19 fallout.

“The government’s recently-announced ‘Apprenticeship Boost’ makes it easier for businesses to employ apprentices as they will be paid up to $16,000 per apprentice over a 20-month period. Until December 2022, the government will also pay the fees training organisations like BCITO charge for overseeing apprenticeships.” 

Caleb’s first apprentice, Dan Hawks, has recently qualified as a carpenter. Dan initially started as an adult apprentice with another Mercury Bay building company and transferred to Caleb after some time out because of an injury. “I worked as a chef in Wellington and was forced into a career change during the global financial crisis,” he says. “I became a commercial diver and ended up in Auckland, but because contract commercial diving jobs are somewhat erratic, I started helping out on building sites. I came on holiday to Whitianga about five years ago and decided this is the place I rather want to live

“I initially contacted local construction companies for hammer hand jobs and after a while an adult apprenticeship opportunity came along. It really was a no-brainer to take it on. I appreciate the responsibilities that come with being qualified and having a career I genuinely enjoy. Make no mistake, an apprenticeship has the opportunity to change your life.”

Caleb employed another adult apprentice, Paul Pine, two years ago. Paul was an audio engineer in Auckland before moving to Whitianga in search of a lifestyle change. After his arrival in town, he worked as a painter and met Caleb on a building site.

“I was very happy when Caleb offered me an apprenticeship,” Paul says. “I look forward to being qualified as a tradie. As soon as that happens, I’m going to build my own house. That was never going to be possible if I didn’t accept Caleb’s offer.”

The newest addition to Caleb’s team, Travis George, is finishing Year 12 at Mercury Bay Area School this year. Caleb offered Travis a work experience opportunity for the rest of this year through the school’s Gateway programme and will formally employ him as an apprentice next year. Travis met Caleb through his father, who’s also involved in the construction industry.

“I’ve worked with Caleb during a school holiday not too long ago and really enjoyed it,” Travis says. “At the moment I’m working on site with the Bayside Construction team three days a week and go to school the other two days. I’m excited to formally start my apprenticeship as a carpenter. That will give me a career I can take with me wherever I go and who knows, I may one day end up owning my own business.”

Caleb says it’s important for apprentices to stay on top of the theory they have to complete if they want to qualify. “Bookwork is, like in all things, important,” he says. “As I’ve been working with Dan, and now with Paul, I’ll work with Travis to make sure he doesn’t fall behind. That’s the one thing about an apprenticeship that’s really great. It’s a team effort, you’re not on your own. In our case, all of us will help wherever we can to ensure Travis gets his qualification.”

Dan agrees with Caleb. “When Travis started working with us, we told him a driver’s licence will be the first tool in his toolbox. We were all very happy when he got his learner’s licence not long after that.”

According to Marie Relph, the MBAS Gateway coordinator, there’s good interest from local businesses to offer work experience opportunities to students of the school. “Quite a few former students are already working as apprentices in Mercury Bay and hopefully a few more will come along,” she says. “It’s a great way to not only solve some employers’ problem to attract good staff, but also to keep our young people in the area.”

Pictured: Bayside Construction’s Dan Hawks (left), Caleb Jennings (centre) and Travis George at a building site in the Whitianga Waterways on Wednesday last week.


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