Building Pasifika: The importance of qualifications

Despite reasonably high numbers of Pasifika tradies working in the construction industry, many don’t have qualifications. The result is that Pasifika peoples are underrepresented in leadership roles, and less likely to own their own businesses.

Recognising the importance of more diverse leadership to a thriving construction sector and looking to help more Pasifika tradies go further in their careers, BCITO’s ‘Building Pasifika’ campaign is designed to support Pasifika learners to gain a formal qualification.

Samoan Freedom Feulufai had been in the building industry for 10 years and was running sites before considering an apprenticeship. Advice about whether he should get qualified was mixed. A lot of the older Pasifika foremen, who’d got their positions without formal qualifications, told him that apprenticeships weren’t necessary.

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However, Freedom knew that he didn’t want to be on the tools all his life; he wanted to be a decision-maker. And once he applied for his apprenticeship, his breadth of experience put him on the fast track. It took him just a year to qualify. Now the owner of his own company, AR Build Ltd, Freedom values his employees’ wellbeing and makes sure he takes care of his people.

“I encourage my employees to speak up about things that are bothering them. I want them to feel valued and equal. I care a lot about their progress, so I push them to stay on top of their studies,” says Freedom.

Jacob Paea is a Tongan carpenter at Christopher Hay Construction. Before entering the construction sector, Jacob worked in a factory for nine years, but never gave up on his goal of being a carpenter. Getting qualified was less about himself and more about helping others.

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“I’m a youth leader at my church and a few of the younger members were struggling with their apprenticeships. That’s why I got qualified, to be an example for them,” explains Jacob.

“My wife, family and community have all helped me immensely. My wife helped me with the theory and my parents reminded me of my goals.”

Samoan apprentice Atapana Visesio echoes these sentiments.

“Getting qualified with BCITO has allowed me to give back to the wider community and set an example for my siblings. I’ve learnt skills that I wouldn’t have been taught in a traditional classroom,” he says.

Atapana plans to do the supervisor’s qualification as soon as he’s finished his apprenticeship, aiming to start his own construction company to uplift Pasifika people in the construction industry.

He praises the support he’s received from his BCITO training advisor, Kilisi Taatu, for helping him along his journey.

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“My employers work with Kilisi to ensure that the work I’m doing aligns with my assessments. I also attend Kilisi’s night classes – they’re really useful," he says.

Another one of Kilisi’s apprentices, Malumalu Paleso’o, started in the industry as a labourer before taking on an apprenticeship. Kilisi has helped her set her goals and put in place actions to achieve these milestones. Malumalu’s next goal is to finish her apprenticeship in six months’ time.

With the ‘Building Pasifika’ campaign, BCITO is calling for more learners to start their apprenticeships, where they’ll be supported every step of the way. Freedom, Jacob, Atapana and Malumalu, are just four of the talented and hard-working Pasifika people making the industry their own, with help from mentors like Kilisi. Aotearoa New Zealand needs more Pasifika people with a passion for the trades to upskill and grow their knowledge to create much-needed quality homes and infrastructure.

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