“It was actually here at the Papamoa Plaza where it all started. I was working here part-time doing cleaning and security on the night shift and Guy (now my employer) was doing some plastering on the new build. We’d had a few chats and I was really fascinated by what he was doing. He asked me if I wanted a turn and said yeah and after that, he asked if I’d consider this as a job. I thought – you’re joking! Things just went from there. I think Guy was impressed by my attitude. We got on well so in a way he had a chance to see what type of worker I might be.
"I’ve had a pretty varied career to date. When I left school I did a course in personal training. I didn’t really pursue that too much but I really like being active. After that, I worked with kids at after school and holiday programmes for four years.
"No-one in my family has a background in construction. I was just keen to try something different. My whanau are happy for me and think it’s cool. My brother now thinks I’m cool as I’ve shown him some of the work I do. He didn’t realise how technical the job is until he saw me on the tools. I had quite a bit of experience before I actually started the apprenticeship so found the bookwork relatively easy.
"Smartstop took me on as someone to help build the company and the services they can offer. I’m able to lead jobs and train other staff so I don’t plan on going anywhere soon. We’re quite a small company and we focus on quality. The job I’m on now is a daycare centre. We do quite a variety of work, commercial, residential and we did a three-storey building at the local Polytechnic last year. I’m running jobs and training people and really enjoy that.
"I get a buzz from the variety of places I get to work at and it’s a whole new world for me. When I worked with kids it was at the same venue every day. I never knew this type of work existed and it’s really awesome what a great life a tradies’ life is. Depending on the job you work with different people and around other subcontractors. We’ve got our crew and everyone gets along. Being a girl, a lot of other tradies think that’s pretty fascinating and I’ve met a lot of great people. I get stuck into the work and stay focused so I’ve earned respect from the guys.
"Outside of work I keep it quite simple, going to the gym, going up the Mount, hanging out with my friends and whanau. I don’t feel the need to go overseas or move way. I’m a local and love being close to my whanau.
"Having a qualification provides our clients with the assurance that they’ve got the right people doing the work, and of course any future employers know that you can do everything to a quality finish. An apprenticeship gives you confidence as your work is being monitored by the boss and your BCITO Training Advisor so you know you can do things that once you might have doubted. It’s a good feeling. I just want to grow within the company and maybe learn the pricing side of the business at this stage.
"The best thing about my job today is the money. The money is really good. It’s better than standard jobs. I’ve friends that have gone to uni' and now they’re in a job earning less money than me. It’s good money. I never thought I could be on this much money, it’s awesome!
"It’s really great to get the good feedback from our clients. It’s very satisfying to know you get the reassurance that you are doing a good quality job. Sometimes you’re able to go back and look at the finished job and it’s cool to see how you contributed to that.
"My boss gives us the opportunity to work as a team, figure out the best way to do things and manage ourselves. There’s a lot of trust between all of us and we work really well together. We don’t play the hierarchy game. We treat everyone as equals.
"I really enjoy the job that we are on. It’s a preschool and there’s lots of big open spaces for children. Having worked with children, it’s nice to be contributing to the development of this centre. The builder has been great and there’s been a really great culture on site.
"I probably work 40-45 hours per week and have a good work-life balance. If you want to work weekends you can, but there’s no pressure to have to. It’s good to get the weekends off as the work is hard.
"Being a women in a trade, you have to have a good attitude and, like everyone, focus on your skills. Women in construction trades know how to handle themselves in a male-dominated workplace and you can’t go into the job expecting different treatment. If you’re going to make it you will gain respect, you need to keep it professional.
"Wallboard stopping is a technical trade and it takes lots of practise to get a good finish. People seem to think it’s really easy but I can tell you - it’s hard work and it takes time to get the best finish.”
Melissa is due to complete her apprenticeship in the next few months. BCITO wish her well for her career and congratulate her on her achievements.
Female trade apprentices are loving their career choice, but few considered a career in building or construction while they were at school, research shows.
Brad Gemmell qualified as a bricklayer at 21 years of age and hopped on a plane to London, ready to put his skills to the test. He returned to New Zealand a few years later and began his own business, Brad the Brickie Ltd in Wanaka.