Unga says, "It started off as a hobby. It was natural for me to fix bits and pieces and help build huts, and my cousins were all doing carpentry.
"Later, in New Zealand, I’d left school and was drifting, but came to a point where I realised I was wasting time. A church contact encouraged me to get a plumbing scholarship through Weltec’s Māori and Pasifika Trades Training (MPTT) scheme. I finished the plumbing course, but it made me realise I really wanted to do their carpentry course!"
Show employers your passion and it’ll open doors
Unga finished the MPTT pre-trade carpentry programme and was doing some labouring when he was told that work was finishing. "It took the announcement for me to find the courage to ask the leading hand if I could stay on and do a carpentry apprenticeship."
His newfound confidence paid off and Unga is now two years into his National Certificate in Carpentry. "At first I had to ask my mentor how to read plans and action them. Now I can understand plans I’ve never seen before."
Carpentry offers a toolkit of skills
Unga is currently working with a team of builders on the restoration of an historic public building. "Carpentry’s not just woodwork. I’m doing formwork – putting in steel foundations for concrete. But I want to get into the finishing work – the detail, the really fine woodwork."
Unga says he likes that building skills are transferable. "Wherever you go you can take your skills with you, and it also feels good to finish a job. It gets physical but it keeps you active and it’s good for your health!"