The building and construction industry is making strides towards a more diverse and inclusive culture, however there is still work to be done to make the trades more accessible to everyone. One business owner playing his part in diversifying the industry is Tavita Isaac, co-founder and CEO of the multidisciplinary trade company, Inspire Living. He hopes to make a difference with every hiring decision he makes.
“I encourage everyone to be more open minded about who and how they recruit” he says.
Having first qualified as a tiler through a BCITO training programme, Tavita and his wife Jessica first started the tiling business 12 years ago. But the services they provide have since expanded and they now lead a team of employees, who are experts in tiling, masonry, solid plastering, gib-stopping, decorating and bathrooms, and come from all walks of life.
“There has been a positive change in the industry over the last few years, with more of the minority groups being represented - and we are proud to be playing a part in that. Around 50 per cent of our employees are Māori or Pasifika and about 30 per cent are female.”
Most recently, Inspire Living has brought on three female painting apprentices. Already having one qualified female painter in the company, Tavita knew they would each make great additions to the team.
“Having different backgrounds, understandings and perspectives is healthy in any working environment. Not only does it improve building outcomes, but it also noticeably improves the work culture. Our company feels so much more whānau oriented and inclusive than it did five years ago, before we had such a diverse team. That’s the biggest benefit for me and everyone else in our work team.”
Tavita believes strongly in leading by example.
“It’s great to see how normal it is to have diversity on the work site, compared to a decade ago. However, there is still a long way to go. The way I see it, the more people that know construction is an option for them, and that there are businesses like Inspire Living out there wanting to hire them, the better.
Tavita and wife Jessica’s mission is also a personal one. With a young daughter at home, they want to show her she can succeed in whatever career she chooses to pursue, including any of the trades.
“The feel-good thing for us is showing our daughter what she could achieve in the industry. It’s about breaking the stigma that construction or labouring is just for men. The incredible women we have in our team are fantastic role models for anyone thinking about getting into the trades.”
Inspire Living is reaping the rewards of Tavita’s recruitment strategy too. With aspiring employees reaching out to him most days, he is never short of staff, even in today’s market.
“We are quickly becoming an employer of choice. The business is really feeling the positive impacts of those hiring decisions. We don’t need to advertise for staff, people are knocking on our door each week, handing in their CVs, and wanting to come and work with us.”
If Tavita could give one piece of advice to other construction businesses looking to hire new staff, it would be to keep an open mind.
“Be open-minded when going through the recruitment process about the benefits of having a diverse team in your workplace, and about the possibilities that it brings – don’t put your company in a box”.
After training through BCITO himself over a decade ago, Tavita has come full circle, now helping the next generation get qualified. Over the past five to six years, he has helped over 10 aspiring tradespeople complete their apprenticeship.
“It’s great to give back, and BCITO have been amazing to deal with. We are lucky to have had some awesome training advisors that really go above and beyond, and probably do more than their job requires them to.”
BCITO has identified the pressing need for greater representation of Pasifika peoples within the construction workforce. So enters our new "Building Pasifika" campaign that has been introduced to cater to the needs of Pasifika learners current and future.
As the number of women taking on apprenticeships are increasing so are the accolades being won in some of the industry's most prestigious competitions. We take a look at two of our trailblazing BCITO apprentices, Kiri Cooper and Jess Nielsen.